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The Menu: Beautiful Presentation… But Lacks Substance

by | Apr 1, 2023 | Film Review, Uncategorized

Note: This Review contains spoilers

Let them eat McDonalds says director, Mark Mylod, with one of Searchlight Picture’s newest star-studded original films, The Menu. There’s a lot going for this film: Ralph Fiennes’ hypnotic performance as psychopath Gordon Ramsay, a hauntingly memorable score by Colin Stetson, and Peter Deming’s masterful camerawork weave gorgeously together to create what really is an entertaining time with friends and family. But sadly, that’s where the buck stops.

At the end of the day, the film rings hollow: there’s enough Christopher Nolan brand spectacle and pseudo-intellectualism to satisfy most viewers exiting the theater (or more likely, turning off their streaming device), but you’re left with a sour taste once you inevitably realize that there is no depth to the film at all.

The Menu stars Ralph Fiennes as a psychotic chef at a restaurant for the ultra-rich

Class is used as a buzzword in the hopes that the film will appear profound, but frankly, the message of the film is insulting. The protagonist is named Margo, a sex-worker who manages to escape because she fulfills the crazed chef’s fantasy of having his high-end food rejected for a ten dollar cheese burger to go. Chef Slowik, his staff, and the wealthy clients trapped on the island perish explosively as Margo hungrily scarfs down the burger on the boat she escapes on. 

So what’s the message? Satisfy the white man in power if you want to survive? Flipping burgers is more fulfilling than pursuing your passion? Whatever hang ups you might have about Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion (assuming you’ve watched it), it’s hard not to admit that the imagery it closes with is powerful and evocative of radical leftist rebellion; unlike The Menu, Glass Onion actually says, eat the rich.  

Glass Onion is a film that tells us to burn down our oppressive institutions to the ground

Mylod writes in a snooty critic to dismiss criticism as a whole, insinuating that they destroy artists arbitrarily because they are given too much authority— that artists can’t fail because their work… might not actually be that good. And Tyler, played by Nicholas Holte, is created to criticize fans who obsess over things they can’t do themselves. It’s as if to say that only people who know how to do it should enjoy it, whatever it may be. 

The film, like Fight Club, The Dark Knight, and American Psycho, is essentially about cults and intoxicating cult leaders. But unlike the movies mentioned, the ideology and allure of the cult is never developed in The Menu, robbing it of the entire premise’s appeal. We watch people burn themselves alive for Chef Slowik, but we never quite get why, and that’s extremely disappointing!   

I desperately wanted to love the film, but it’s best described as a bunch of interesting ideas, loosely strung together in the hopes that viewers will make something of it. Once it’s in their hands though, it quickly falls apart and any meaning you might try to extract from the film ceases to make sense once you think about it for two or three seconds. There are a lot of reasons to watch it — just don’t be surprised when you’re left hungrier than before.