Director Mark Mylod is best known for drama series such as Succession and Game of Thrones, but he breaks out of TV dramas with the horror comedy The Menu (2022). This Golden Globe nominee follows a group of esteemed guests and their haunting experience at one of the world’s most exclusive restaurants.
Last minute edition Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy) is a critical stranger to the world of extreme fine dining. Her disinterest in the pretentiousness of the guests catches the eye of head chef Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). It’s the combination of the chef’s favor and her practical sensibility that disrupts his sadistic meal plan.
From the very beginning, the humor expresses itself by poking fun at Margot’s date and his egotistical smugness about “high class” food. The film’s commentary on the rich is both comedic and serious. The film jokes about the ridiculousness of high-concept restaurants that attend to aesthetics over satisfying their guests’ hunger.
In one particularly hilarious scene, Chef Slowik gives a speech about how medieval peasants’ diets mainly consisted of bread. He then tells the guests that they are not peasants and presents a “breadless bread course” consisting of sauces to dip bread in, but no bread. Most of the visitors adored the course but Margot remains thoroughly unimpressed. Chef Slowik recognizes that Margot is much more like the service workers in the kitchen than the wealthy guests in the dining room. He grants her with the knowledge that all of the employees know: Everyone is going to die at the end of the meal. Here, the more intense social commentary begins.
Viewers see how the rich string along others for their own gain. They see the devastating emotional effect the commodification of talent can have. Each character represents an archetype of person we can all recognize to both laugh at and despise. The Menu creates a sense of foreboding that escalates into thrilling horror. Throughout all the unpleasantness, the central theme of class disparity stays clear.