On Friday, November 18, 2022, The Menu came to theaters. Leading up to its release, the trailers for Mark Mylod’s black comedy horror movie revealed little about the plot but set high expectations for audiences with its incredible cast and intriguing premise. The trailers disclosed only that the movie would follow a group of wealthy food enthusiasts as they ate dinner at Hawthorne, an exclusive and pricey restaurant located on a secluded island and run by the world-famous Chef Slowik (portrayed by Ralph Fiennes) and his kitchen staff with a near cult-like devotion to him. With this much mystery surrounding the movie, it's easy to understand why so many people (myself included) were looking forward to its eventual release in theaters. But did it meet expectations?
When I first saw The Menu in theaters, it exceeded my expectations significantly. I went in expecting an interesting movie, but nothing special. I left the theater with it on my top list of movies released in 2022. Before I go into everything The Menu does well, it is important to mention that this movie is definitely not for everyone. It is a very tense and at times horrifying movie that relies on its audience appreciating dark humor. If dark humor isn’t your thing, then you may have a hard time enjoying this movie.
As mentioned earlier, The Menu is set on the remote island of Hawthorne, which is home to the restaurant of the same name. After the group of mostly wealthy diners are led inside, they begin to eat the varied collection of courses the Chef has prepared for them. Strangely, these courses could almost not be called food, as they serve more as art pieces with occasionally edible sections. The first course is a pile of rocks covered in seawater and a few leaves, which the diners are expected to eat. These courses are also incorporated into the editing of the movie in a super unique way that is utilized brilliantly in The Menu’s final act for one of the best jokes in the entire movie, which I won’t spoil.
The main character, Margot (portrayed by Anya Taylor Joy), is one of the few attending the dinner that isn’t incredibly wealthy and also happens to be the only one that doesn’t shower Chef Slowik with praise, asking her date, Tyler (portrayed by Nicholas Hoult) if it’s okay that she “isn’t as into this” as he is. From the beginning, Margot stands out as different from the rest dining at Hawthorne. For starters, she doesn’t view the Chef’s “art food” as brilliant, setting her apart from her more pretentious counterparts, but she is also the only person in attendance that wasn’t hand-picked by the Chef, as she was invited to fill the space left by a last-minute cancellation.
As the night goes on, the guests begin to realize that something is not right. As the peaceful atmosphere unravels, the Chef is revealed to be more and more menacing until the movie goes from a comedy critiquing the rich to an all-out horror thriller that leaves the audience with a lasting feeling of dread. Almost every twist is surprising and unexpected and the tension builds all the way until the fantastic ending. All in all, it is a wonderfully dark and funny movie that is definitely worth a watch if these types of movies interest you.