The Menu(Ending Explained)
It is still a Wednesday and we have a couple of days left before the 1st weekend of 2023 begins and brings to us some freshly brewed content. But before that I finally got a chance to watch and review the new English film The Menu, a movie that I was keen awaiting since a very long time. We live in times of OTT platforms which have exposed us to a lot of content across the globe, some of which is different from the league. Gone are the days when the filmmakers would stick to only one genre. The new breed of filmmakers do like experimenting and creating a fusion of genres that would cater to the palate of a wider range of viewers. One such genre is the horror-comedy-drama genre which would instantly sound odd, given that the three of the genres may not co-exist. But in this very space, I happened to watch The Menu. Does it make for a lip-smacking viewing, lets find out.
Story & Screenplay(Spoilers In This Section)
The Menu follows the story of a young couple who travel to a remote island to eat at an exclusive restaurant which has more surprises than one up its sleeve. This is all you need to know about the story which is deliciously dark and brilliantly flavourful. The screenplay standing at about a 107 minutes does have a lot of subtext to digest and so I had to allow myself some time before penning this review. But it was indeed a movie watching experience like no other! And there is no way that can talk about the screenplay without letting out a few spoilers, so yeah spoilers ahead!
The first thing that I did notice about the drama was its incredible setup. The drama does comprise of many characters from different walks of life but the writing doesn’t allow you to have any pre-conceived notions about any character. The screenplay starts off from the point of all the main players boarding a ship to visit the exclusive restaurant which is set on an island. And instantly as a viewer you can sense that something is amyss and so you begin to watch the proceedings with much caution.
The proceedings are thoroughly engaging and engrossing particularly due to the brilliant world building that keeps riling up the tension. The drama is a slow burn and its leisurely pace does add a lot of texture to it, particularly with the atmospherics in play. The authenticity of a fine dine is represented brilliantly with a dash of humour. It is more of a pretense addressing the fact that food is food at the end of the day and only a few elite citizens have the luxury of experiencing a fine dine. So the class divide is also aptly shown here particularly through the food critic who also happens to knit-pick issues with food even when have the world is deprived of it! The ‘breadless’ dish was a perfect representation of the class divide(with bread being a basic necessity for the poor as opposed to a luxury for the rich). The fun begins when the horror element kicks in with a twist in the tale. It is jaw dropping and quite shocking as it did seem to come out of nowhere. It is from this point that this section shall contain spoilers and so viewers discretion advised.
The first question which would pop up – Why was the head chef Julian targeting the bunch of people who had come for an exclusive experience at his restaurant? This stems from the fact that we all have hobbies and at times the love of them prompts us to take them up as a profession. But often through the everyday hustle or criticism, we forget what had prompted us in taking our hobby as a profession in the first place. Here Chef Julian was shown to be a celebrity chef, having earned money and fame. Yet, the sense of purpose in his life was on the decline probably due to the lack of attention on his food by the people who had visited his restaurant over the years. The frequent criticism of his food by a food critic also did not help its cause. This does sum up the hotel management industry and the people who work tirelessly day and night with little to no appreciation. In fact, the same concept would extend even to corporates who have been blindly exploiting their workforce with a subtle touch of capitalism. So any service based industry falls in this category, something that prompted Julian to get even at his guests.
The second question is, why did anyone not try to escape? The answer here is simple. In separate incidents, a businessman’s ring finger was dismembered and chopped off when he had tried to escape. Also, the men of the group were given a chance to flee only to be caught by the chef’s men and be brought back. The three businessmen also had their sins painted on a taco bread which in a way did make them hold back. A Coast Guard does appear which happens to be one of the helpers of Chef Julian(so there goes another chance) Plus the people may well have thought that given their elite background, what could possibly go wrong?
So then, why did Chef Julian allow Margot aka Erin to escape? Margot was the sole guest of the night who had arrived rather unexpectedly for Julian. Given that she also was from the service industry in the world’s oldest profession, Julian did begin to sympathize with her and count her as ‘one of them'(after being given a choice). Margot was also the most clever of the guests, understanding the weakness of Julian and addressing it as well. In an important scene, she does order a ‘cheeseburger with fries’, one of the greasiest American fast food snack that is affordable and easily available even to the poor. And this dish was also a bit of a comfort food, taking Julian back to his childhood days wherein he may have begin his journey towards being a chef with baby steps(by preparing a cheeseburger). Once Erin does taste it, she does praise Julian which in turn acts as a soothing balm for the latter thus prompting him to allow her to leave. So it was just a bit of appreciation that Julian ever wanted! If there are any managers, people in position reading this video, take a hint and appreciate your employees. They shall drive your business to new heights if you keep them motivated!
So then what happens at the end? Eleven of the twelve guests act as ingredients to the final dish of Chef Julian who sets the entire restaurant ablaze. So all the ingredients(chocolate to be precise) does melt over the guests who wilt in the flames thus forming a perfect s’mores. This while Erin, now in a boat watches from a distance while taking a bite of her delicious cheeseburger! So overall, the screenplay is layered and has a lot of subtext throughout its runtime!
Dialogues, Music & Direction
The dialogues are sharp and capture the vibe of the drama rather well given that the drama was conversational in the first place. The BGM is subtle and never overpowers the drama. The cinematography captures the dishes prepared with a touch of panache. Director Mark Mylod does a brilliant job in creating at atmosphere of tension at the most unlikeliest of places. The themes here do act as an undercurrent that ultimately results in a tasty dish on the menu!
The performances by the ensemble cast is accurate from the mannerisms to the style of interacting. Hong Chau as Elsa and Janet McTeer as Lillian have their moments to shine. Nicholas Hoult as Tyler is outstanding and his poker faced comedy does work well here. Anya Taylor-Joy as Margot is just so brilliant here and natural to the core particularly towards the backend of the drama. Ralph Fiennes as Julian has a sense of calmness to his character that does make him even more terrifying. He is splendid here with a well restrained performance for the ages!
The Menu is a deliciously dark drama with a tinge of subtext that makes for a brilliantly flavourful drama. Available on Hotstar and Highly Recommended!