Course by Course: A Non-Spoiler Review of The Menu

Gabriel Hill, Journalist

The Menu is a darkly comedic satire that magically merges the worlds of food and film. Although the film focuses on the food industry, the lessons found there are relevant to everyone, regardless of their occupation.

From the first scenes of the film, director Mark Mylod (known from Shameless) immerses viewers in the world of The Menu. Our main protagonist, Tyler (Nicholas Holt from X-Men and The Great), appears to be a “foodie” , whereas Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy from The Queen’s Gambit and ), appears to only be there as Tyler’s mysterious companion.

The Menu chronicles the narrative of Chef Slowick (Ralph Fiennes, M in the most recent James Bond franchise, and Voldemort in Harry Potter), who has lost touch with his love for cooking. Nevertheless, Slowick invites a range of people to his private island for a multi-course banquet: a renowned actor who is losing popularity, a pair of culinary critics who found Slowick, a married couple who has eaten at Slowick’s restaurant several times, a group of egotistical businessmen, and Tyler and Margot. Even before arriving at the island, there is an overarching sense of dread and mystery. As the dinner proceeds, momentum rises and tensions grow, culminating in an intense and introspective conclusion for the audience.

Fiennes’ acting is superb. The tiniest crack of a smile helps us understand his character’s feelings and gives the audience a slight laugh during the film’s most depressing scenes. Despite risking cliché, every character in the film is brilliantly portrayed, enabling the viewer to dislike and yet care about them. Each character has their opportunity to shine in telling the narrative, especially in the final scene of the film, which brings home the true themes of the film. Although I won’t go into detail, the topics of classism and the discrepancy produced by income inequality are well highlighted.

The Menu‘s actual objective is to present rather than convey its tale. As an example of the primary concepts and how the narrative is delivered, the trio of businessmen who are stealing from their firm are offered a breadless plate at the start of the second course. They are so perplexed by the purpose of this platter that they demand bread, even attempting to influence and coerce the employees into giving them bread. Yet, they not only do not receive bread, but they also discover that “[they] will eat less than [they] desire and more than [they] deserve.” These and other scenes highlight the film’s genuine message. That the upper class is unaware of how fortunate they are and that no matter how hard a service worker works, certain individuals will never be content. As a result, the disparity caused by income inequality is in full force.

The Menu delivers an excellent score with a wonderful plot and performance(s). Colin Steson (renowned for writing the music for Red Dead Redemption II and Hereditary) orchestrates and introduces each new course with a chilling combination of graceful, soaring woodwind lines, as well as a striking contrast in the harsh strings during the film’s most dramatic scenes. The music genuinely tells its own tale, and focusing on it alone is worth a second viewing.

Amidst the sea of spy thrillers, superheroes, comedy, romance, horror, animation, and action blockbusters in Hollywood right now, there appears to be a paucity of truly imaginative storytelling. The Menu is a fascinating, engaging film with amazing acting, a beautiful score, a gripping narrative, and a message of classism and income inequality.