The Menu had potential. With a star-studded cast, the film received a 7.3/10 from IMDb and an 89% score from Rotten Tomatoes (the audience score was 76%). Main actors Ralph Fiennes, who plays an extremely obsessive celebrity chef, and Anya Taylor-Joy who plays a guest unused to the luxury dining lifestyle both received Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor and Actress.
The movie was generally very well-received, and yet I cannot seem to understand why. If I had to personally provide it a score, I would give it a 4/10.
Directed by Mark Mylod, The Menu focused on the experience of two young people going to dine in one of the most exclusive, world-renowned restaurants located on a secluded private island. With a cast of eccentric and uniquely troubled characters joining in on the dining experience as well, the night progresses only to reveal that there is something deeply amiss.
The menu started as any other luxury menu would: drinks, an amuse-bouche, and a plethora of accompanying courses. With the presentation of each course, their meals become less and less luxurious. Secrets, blood, gore, and the guests’ utter hopelessness is what comes next in the sequence of events.
In between the chaos of trying to figure out what was going on, we get to hear Chef Julian Slowik’s story: and yet nothing about why he is now a homicidal maniac. He has a background in working at a fast-food burger restaurant, and it is implied that he worked his way up to be the profound chef he is today. He confronts the night’s guests by telling how each of them, in some way or another, contributed to him losing his passion for cooking and exploiting workers quite like himself. Which is great, but it doesn’t explain anything as to why the gory events occurred.
Sure, the film had plenty to say about the divisions between class and obsession and of course, the whole art-versus-the-artist debate. And yet, it wasn’t presented as a philosophical commentary: it was a thriller, trying desperately to be an astute take on the problems in modern society, specifically those leading a luxurious life. While these are all very important topics that our society needs to learn about, I was definitely not expecting them to appear in the thriller movie that I was eager to see.
The whole movie felt as if it could not decide whether the message or the thrill was more important: leading to a rough combination that most certainly did not mix well.
And then there was the ending. It was an incredibly unsophisticated ending for a seemingly sophisticated film, and it initially made me wonder if they wrote it in for a comedic factor. I ultimately decided that even if it was, it greatly missed the mark. The movie lacked so much closure, I felt that the whole point was wasted. As if the writers thought a movie about the problems with class divisions and the respect of artisans would not be appealing to the public, so they threw in a couple of intense, bloody scenes at the last minute and crossed their fingers that their message would get across.
After I first viewed the trailer, I went into the theater expecting an edge-of-your-seat, spill-your-popcorn-everywhere, punch-the-person-in-the-seat-to-your-left kind of movie. I was expecting a thriller, teetering on the edge of horror, maybe even with some cannibalism sprinkled in here and there. I never thought I would say it, but by the end of the movie, I found myself wishing that cannibalism was involved.
I only wish each scene in The Menu was as carefully crafted as each of Chef Slowik’s courses. As I said, the movie had great potential, but the plot was too choppy and barely even coherent. It had a lot to say, but did not know how to properly say it, leaving me wanting both more and less at the same time. Which is why The Menu left me hungry.