In THE MENU, you are how you eat

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Jackson Piercy
Staff Writer

Something totally normal going on outside! Photo from imdb.com.

We are truly living in a golden age of content. We’ve got stories, books about those stories, movies based on the books, music from the movies, a seemingly bottomless pit of people willing to make video essays about those movies, and even people wishing to cash in on a movie’s popularity by determining if it’s good or not (guilty!). In any other case, we’d say that we’re in an epidemic of sorts. Not your traditional epidemic, we already had that! I’m taking a proliferation of content so expansive that it’d make the Military Industrial Complex blush. We’ve got culture for sale, and you’d be kidding yourself if you said that you’ve completely shut yourself from all that we have to consume. I mean, you’re reading this article, aren’t you?

Tyler and Margot (Nicholas Hoult and Anya Taylor-Joy, respectively) have punched their ticket to seemingly the most exclusive restaurant in the world, Hawthorne. Set upon a lonely island, Hawthorne is both the island where the restaurant resides, and where the staff lives under the thumb of celebrity Chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes), working day and night for guests that come in for $1,250 a head. The food is just as pretentious as the restaurant would let on, giving guests dishes that amount to bread trays with no bread, single scallops with mixed greens on rocks, and the typical snobby restaurant fare. Though, not all is as it seems. The staff is nice, but a bit too nice. The food has prestige, but the chef knows just about everything about everybody. Everybody, except for one among the guests, whose secret may ruin the entire night for everybody. Remember what Chef says: “Do not eat… taste.”

Let me first say that I really enjoy the off-putting nature of the composition of the film. This almost works like a film adaptation of a stage play, where we are stuck mostly in one space with all our characters visible to each other in a way where there’s still a separation between the two “factions” of the film. Our factions lie on two ends of the content industrial complex, the diners, and the cooks. On one side, you have the people who once found enjoyment in what they did, but to the detriment of their souls, their life is completely consumed by creating the same or similar experiences day in and day out. On the other, consumers. Fanboys, critics, brown-nosers, finance bros, has-beens, people who don’t have anything better to do with their money and with their time. Ralph Fiennes takes immense amounts of pleasure in making the patrons’ lives miserable, and I will admit that I was eating this up the whole time. This film is much funnier than it would let on, so much so that I would consider this more a black comedy than a pure thriller. Though, this film is so incredibly dense that some of the jokes may be lost to some on the first watch. I will posit that this film only gets better the more one watches it.

Watching these snobbish a-holes get exactly what’s coming to them is a delight that I didn’t exactly expect when coming into this film. I feel as though we’ve been watching trailers for this film since February, but I assure you: this film is most certainly worth the wait. For its philosophical musings about both consumption habits and bergamot, The Menu is an evening that neither the characters nor the audience will ever forget.

“The Menu” is currently streaming on HBO Max.