An exclusive restaurant on a private island, the price point ensures that the clientele of Hawthorne are wealthy if not sophisticated, taken by boat and toured past the shore where seafood is harvested through the apiary and the smokehouse to the establishment itself, host Elsa accustomed to unruly clientele and herding the couples to their destination and seating them before the arrival of Julian Slowik, the chef who has conceived the menu.
Tyler a devotee of Slowik who has been communicating with him for months, enraptured by his chance to attend, his replacement date for the evening, Margot, is less enamoured of the avant-garde food, the needless theatre of its presentation or the intimidation she perceives in Slowik’s manner towards his guests and her in particular.
The ceremonies of the preparation, presentation and consumption of food a crossroads of culture and art from The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover to a more recent banquet at sea which tensed the Triangle of Sadness, The Menu constructed by Minority Report‘s Mark Mylod is a deliciously wicked black comedy of manners, the diners of Hawthorn having no clue how to react as each challenging, provocative and bloody course is presented, automatically falling back on established social norms.
Starring The King’s Man’s Ralph Fiennes as Julian Slowik, his kitchen is his empire and his staff are his loyal soldiers, willing to die for him and to kill; stripped of all self-deceptions other than those he presents to his paying customers, among them are Dark Phoenix‘s Nicholas Hoult as Tyler and The New Mutants‘ Anya Taylor-Joy as uninvited Margot, a wild card Slowik had not anticipated in his carefully structured evening of fine dining and terror.
With Downsizing‘s Hong Chau keeping order as Elsa, as essential to the functioning of Hawthorne as chef himself, The Menu is a balancing act of mystery and menace, the ensemble cast the ingredients and the setting the cooking vessel in which they will be tossed and seared, indiscretions and secrets brought up to taunt them, perhaps incite them to action and prove they are more than dead meat.
Written by Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, like Speak No Evil there is a question of complicity in The Menu; the doors of Hawthorne are closed but any prison can only function properly as long as those held inside refrain from rioting, Slowik’s performance reliant on their deference to his reputation and their desire to sample the next pleasure he plates overriding a sense of self-preservation dulled by being accustomed to a position at the top of the food chain.