Through the display of sins and punishment set on an island restaurant in The Menu, the film brings to mind the question of who is more important in a commercial or creative relationship – the producer/artist or the consumer/audience.
We find chef Julian Slowik, played by the former Lord Voldemort, Ralph Fiennes, outraged by the past and ongoing behaviors of his invited guests and seeks to punish them throughout his multiple course meals. In addition to being another film in the “eat the rich” theme such Parasite, at times it feels reminiscent of the survival game genre such as in Hunger Games, Squid Game, and Alice in Borderland.
Prior to watching the film on HBO Max, I had seen a social media post from Screen Rant sharing an article titled The Menu Theory: The Characters Represent The Seven Deadly Sins. Even without reading the article, the title and theory alone still left a strong impression on me so as I watched the film I was consciously trying to determine the dominant sin of each of the dining guests for the evening.
And in the process of looking for these characters’ faults, I greatly empathized with the chef as he pours his life into his personal of art of preparing food at the highest level, yet only a specific type of clientele that tends to be morally less than the pedestals they sit on in society’s eyes. The people who dine at his establishment are unworthy and undeserving of the hard work of this chef and his staff. And yet, despite how easy it is to agree and share in his outrage, a voice in the back of my mind challenges this notion… is it not fair when the patrons have paid and the restaurant has been compensated for their time and effort? This is a much larger dialogue to be had outside of this online publication’s film review, as it asks these potentially polarizing questions about the respect that should be shown to workers and even to customers.
Outside of speaking on its themes and messages, this black comedy horror film tells a story that feels as sleek and stylized as the chic restaurant where it takes place. Throughout the 106 minutes of runtime, there are aesthetic shots of the food being served with appropriately elegant text overlaid. It’s a baffling plot to describe – angry restaurateur plots murder of wicked guests with group suicide of his staff. Yet, it comes together feeling like its points were made and this story had to be told in order for those points to have worked as well as they did.
Anya Taylor-Joy stars in the film as the last-minute date of Nicholas Hoult’s character, immediately making her an outsider to the original plan for the evening. For those interested in a film with a philosophical message, this is one for you. However, for those looking for a film that’ll keep you excited, just follow along and ask yourself is Anya Taylor-Joy important enough to get out of this mess?
The Menu is now available on HBO Max.
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