The Menu: Social commentary served on a silver platter
*THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS*
As tides turn in cinema, the ultra-wealthy are having an increasingly hard time being painted in a good light. As far as slander of the one percent goes, Glass Onion, Windfall, and Triangle of Sadness all antagonise the rich in contemporary settings. However, The Menu by Mark Mylod takes comedy horror to the next level by making a group of slightly corrupt affluent somebodies go through an extravagant yet sinister dining experience on a secluded island.
The writing is sharp and snappy. With famous names such as Ralph Fiennes, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicholas Hoult, and John Leguizamo, not a moment in this film will leave you unentertained. The characters include a washed-up celebrity, finance bros, a deceitful old couple, and an eerie posse of cooks, waiters, and waitresses who are as robotic and odd as the head chef, Julian Slowik.
Ralph Fiennes' performance is nothing short of unsettling, and it goes perfectly with the uncanny environment of the restaurant where the dining experience occurs. Atypical from jumpscare horror, The Menu provides a slow-burn scare where you deduce the death of the characters from the estranged behaviour of the service workers around them. Chef Slowik prepares a set of storytelling dishes for his guests, leaving clues to his master plan along the way. Each dish serves as some sort of jab at the corrupt lives of the guests, an example being pictures of one of the guests engaging in an extra marital affair engraved onto pancakes and served to him and his wife.
The more digestible elements of this movie take its form in one of the major characters Tyler, the sycophantic obsessed foodie that mansplains the "art of food" to his generally uninterested date. His exasperated sighs of disappointment at his date's disinterest in this pretentious exhibition makes it easy for the viewer to hate him.
He can't stop himself from taking pictures of the dishes, vehemently trying to prove to the world that he is someone who understands art. His desperate attempts at sucking up to chef Slowik stirs disdain within the audience, but the worst part about him is that he represents all of us, and that is where the irony lies. Just like him, we visit summits and galleries at venerable attempts to intellectualise and analyse something that just needs to be consumed (quite literally). But in our attempts to do so, we end up turning art into content, and that strips away the raw elements of the artworks and turns it into a commodity for people to mindlessly consume or showcase.
You will find that this movie is one of the most thematically versatile ones of 2022. If you have a keen eye (or enough time to watch explanation videos on YouTube) you'll find that there is commentary on classism, the service industry, consumerism, and of course, on understanding art. You might, however, find yourself subscribing to the common consensus that the movie will, at times, pretend to have a deeper message than it really does. Taking on the burden of making dichotomies for this many social issues was not a wise choice for the producers. The messages feel unfinished, and even if they reach the ballpark, it'll leave you feeling unsatisfied like an itchy spot you can't reach.
All in all, The Menu served, ate, but it certainly left some crumbs behind.
Koushin Unber is on a mission to aestheticise Mohammadpur. Teach her video colour grading at [email protected]