The Menu is a film that teeters the line between comedy and thriller. At the 2022 SCAD Film Festival, writer Seth Reiss focused on the film’s statement on entitled people in the modern day.
~~ Entrees ~~
The Menu’s story is strong. The 5 acts, which are defined by the courses, are an excellent subversion of the classic 5-act film structure. This combines food culture with film culture. As a former cook and a current writer-director, this film satisfied both the food and film lover in me.
In classic thriller fashion, the plot slowly reveals more and more to the audience as the film goes on. This leaves the audience in both wonder and suspense throughout. Although there isn’t much of a subversion of a classic thriller, the filmmakers successfully achieved the plot points and themes of the genre, which sufficed. At times, It seemed that the script attempted to make us laugh, while the direction attempted to make us scream. The audience laughed at multiple lines, but the film never seemed to capitalize on it.
~~ Specials ~~
Getting the chance to meet Seth Reiss, the writer of The Menu, was a fantastic way to get insight into the story. Reiss stated that it is easy to see the film’s theme as “eat the rich”, but The Menu is truly a subversion of this tradition. This film focuses on entitled people, not the rich. This may be a horror movie for entitled people, but a comedy for food-industry workers.
The film was shot in Savannah, Georgia. The filmmakers truly made an effort to include the community in the film by including local chefs as Julian’s obedient waitstaff. This made the theme of anti-entitlement all the more relevant. Using people who really work in the industry makes the film more authentic and true to its topic of food.
~~ The Ingredients ~~
(Played by Anya Taylor-Joy)
Margot is a character we have seen before. She’s not the most three-dimensional in the story. Her character is a straight-man archetype, which led to her being much less interesting than most of her co-stars. Anya Taylor-Joy is a fantastic actress in films like The Witch and The Queen’s Gambit so I was anticipating a strong performance, but her character didn’t seem to have enough for her to experiment.
(Played by Nicholas Hoult)
The twist in Tyler’s character was intriguing, but past that, there isn’t much of an arc. His comedy was a good addition, but Hoult couldn’t bring much else to the table (other than his love of food). In an interview after the screening, Hoult said he researched food culture and recipes in anticipation of filming. This made his love for food in the film all the more interesting to see.
(Played by Hong Chau)
Elsa was another stand-out character. Mysterious, ruthless, and all-knowing. Every scene she was in intrigued me. She was an excellent sidekick to Fienns’ monstrous rule. She was able to keep the pacing of the film on track with her regimens and rules.
(Played by Ralph Fiennes)
Fiennes gave a stand-out performance. His straight-faced comedy and throat-cutting stare made Julian a terrifyingly funny character. Ironically enough, in comparison to the dinner guests, it seems that most of the waitstaff gave much more reserved and masterful performances.
~~ Desert ~~
The Menu was intense and hilarious, but at times the direction and characters seemed to stray from the rest of the film. The 5-course structure gave a quick, intriguing pace. Overall I am torn. The themes, elements, and script work together as a comedy, but the marketing and direction seemed to focus on being a thriller. I enjoyed both separately, but I don’t believe it fully succeeded as both.