The following contains spoilers for The Menu, currently in theaters.
With The menu, director Mark Mylod serves up a racy platter of satirical horror. Starring an impressive cast, the film has been critically acclaimed and gained significant traction for being an effective class-conscious commentary and general takedown of the restaurant business.
At this point, The menu it is effective as a direct commentary on the world of fine-dining establishments and its many hangers-on. From the function of its setting/plot devices alone, the direct reading of the movie has teeth, to be sure. But, seriously, The menu he has as much (if not more) to say about Hollywood and the movie machine than he does about the hotel and restaurant trades.
In The menu, each assistant at Chef Julian Slowik’s (Ralph Fiennes) Hawthorne restaurant is an analogue of a player or key player in the movie industry. Slowik himself is the manager, and his line cooks are the loyal team. Nicholas Hoult’s dim-witted Tyler is the toxic fan, and restaurant writers Lillian and Ted are clear mirrors to movie critics. John Leguizamo’s failed actor is exactly that, and his sidekick Felicity is the same kind of overly ambitious assistant she is on screen. The elderly couple who frequent Hawthorne without any real affection for the edible art they engage with, Richard and Anne represent the ever-present elite who orbit any kind of creative landscape, hoping to associate themselves with art without participating in or finding pleasure in it. it’s. The trio of finance brothers (Bruce, Dave and Soren) characterize blustering studio executives, completely divorced from the imaginative facets of their own business. And finally, Margot (or Erin) is both future filmmaker and audience member.
With all these roles defined, The menu has some darts to say regarding Hollywood and the movie business. Chef Slowik’s dastardly scheme is a statement about the industry’s habit of stripping away any inherent joy that comes with creative pursuits. People are drawn to the idea of making movies because they love them first and foremost. Cinema has the power to bring joy, and anyone who takes steps to make one does so out of a need to get that same joy from others. Instead, as Chef Slowik references several times throughout The menu, artists are forced to follow two paths: trade their integrity for commercial success, or abandon the simple pleasure of art itself for intellectual or academic acclaim. In Slowik’s case, it is the hyper-conceptual attempts at self-aggrandizing “importation” that have surpassed his creative fulfillment.
Lillian and Ted, whose published reviews of various restaurants destroy the careers of many chefs as easily as they (in the case of Julian Slowik) put them “on the map,” show how those charged with evaluating art through an arbitrarily defined lens through Sometimes they can ruin the experience for the creator and the audience alike. The supposed objectivity stifles the growth of new talent and also traps established artists in a constant battle with the critical perception of their work. Tyler is the opposite side of that same coin. The toxic fan, the self-proclaimed “expert,” mistakenly believes that his obsessive knowledge of someone else’s talent also gives them access to it. It’s the inflated impression of superiority over other fans (in Tyler’s case, Margot), despite having no discernible abilities, that ruins the actual artist’s ability to enjoy creating him.
The most obvious parallels with peers in the film industry are The menuThe triptych of the financial brothers: Bruce, Dave and Soren. They are the arrogant studio execs who have an undeserved sense of ownership over the art (or the menu) without possessing a single artistic bone in their bodies. They “give notes” and request substitutions and changes, unwilling to deal with the possibility that their ideas are not only undesirable but harmful. Likewise, John Leguizamo’s washed-up movie star is just that: a creatively broke actor desperate for attention.
Where does Anya Taylor-joy’s Margot fit in?
Anya Taylor-Joy’s Margot (or Erin) is the most important of all, representing both the audience and a potential filmmaker. She knows what it means to have a passion for a trade and have it taken away from you. But Margot also rejects the masturbatory intellectualism and abstraction that Chef Slowik’s work has come to embody. She can only escape her ultimate fate if she makes the active decision to confront and reject that snobbery. When she asks Chef Slowik for a burger, she reminds the chef/director, diners/audience, and herself of the humble origins behind the urge to create: to bring (and experience) comfort and joy.
The menu it’s a wonderfully sharp attack on the restaurant business. But given the form of the narration (it’s a movie!) and the characters involved, it works even better as a satirical deconstruction of Hollywood and the movie industry.
Check out The Menu, now playing in theaters.