What’s on the Menu?

The HAWTHORNE Restaurant where the wealthy, entitled foodie can get their just desserts!

Anya Taylor-Joy is so talented that I find myself going to films I’d usually avoid (“The Northman” for instance). You may have discovered her talent yourself if you found yourself obsessively streaming “The Queen’s Gambit”, the Netflix series of chess and drugs and abandonment issues. My first experience of her work was in the darkly comic film, “Thoroughbreds” (2017). Interestingly, that film features some oversize chess pieces.

The Menu”, directed by Mark Mylod, is also a darkly sarcastic film. I would say that there’s really no comedy, unless you find the thought of the super-wealthy getting their comeuppance funny. Many will. Set on an island, Hawthorne is an exclusive restaurant helmed by a famous chef. How exclusive? Only 12 guests are allowed to partake of the 4 ½ hour tasting menu.

The chef is played by Ralph Fiennes in a scenery-eating sneer. His Chef has played God so long that he’s decided to turn his wrath on his much-feted guest list. We met the douche Investment bros, the snobby food critic and her sycophant magazine editor, a wealthy couple who’ve taken advantage of this experience one too many times, and a movie star and his assistant. The story focuses on the one unexpected guest, played by Ana Taylor-Joy as Margot.

Margot’s been invited by a wealthy foodie, Tyler, whose date has canceled on him. Nicholas Hoult, so good in “The Great” tv series, is a huge fan of our Chef. He’s expecting an almost religious experience during this dining experience. His doting, slaving devotion to fine dining is beyond pretentious. Hoult gets teary-eyed just hearing the description of the first course. Margot is shown rolling her eyes. Margot is clearly a stand-in for us, the incredulous audience.

The film begins with the lucky guests getting ready to board their boat to Hawthorne Island, As the camera pans the craggy driftwood on the inhospitable shore, we sense the island isn’t welcoming these guests. Indeed, even the crew there to meet the ship, barely cracks a smile. The well-dressed guests are herded around the compound: a mix of farm, butcher shop, living quarters, and restaurant.

 As they continue their inane chatter, it’s clear that something is amiss. Margot watches as the door swings closed behind them, feeling a sense of foreboding. As the evening’s events unfold, each of these guests is in for an unexpected and troubling revelation. Chef and his crew have a lot more on the menu than high-end cuisine.

Ralph Fiennes and Anya Taylor-Joy in “the Menu”, Searchlight Pictures

The film is billed as a Comedy Thriller Horror film. It does feature some bloodletting and a little gore, but I’d classify it as a revenge thriller. We learn a few characters back-stories, but the denouement comes down to our interloper, Margot and her churlish date, Tyler. Chef has a particular interest in these two and though he barely speaks to any of the others, Margot gets called into the kitchen more than once.

This is a story of rage against the entitled by those artists who must cater to them. If you view high-end dining as excessive–what with the exorbitant prices and waiting lists, you may find this film a great palate-cleanser. You, like Margot, may prefer a cheeseburger to anything that’s been “foamed”.

“The Menu” is not a film kind to the foodie or the critic. It’s also not a lot of fun. But you may discovery a new appreciation of S’mores…

Drinks with Films rating: 1 free-range quail eggshell, posed on a bed of moss & brambles, filled with pure ocean water (so you can drink the sea) (out of 5)

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