The Dark Comedy The Menu Movie Explained

The Dark Comedy The Menu Movie Explained
Reader Rating1 Votes

The Dark Comedy The Menu Movie Explained. I was pretty sure what I was getting into with the new film The Menu. All the signs were there. There was Ralph Fiennes (In Bruges being my own personal favorite – thx CY) who never, ever, chooses sedate films to be a part of. And Anya Taylor-Joy was here (who we’ve been following here long before the larger world began taking notice of her in that she has been a huge friend of low budget indie THiNC. movies: Morgan, The Queen’s Gambit, Peaky Blinders, etc., etc). There was the foreboding tone of the trailer, that had hints of classicism and retribution running throughout. It was all there. And even still! Even still, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Let’s dive into it – shall we? Please though, if you haven’t seen the movie yet? Do us all a favor and pass on this spoiler filled discussion of the Dark Comedy The Menu Movie Explained.

The Dark Comedy The Menu Movie Explained

Margot Mills has been invited at the last minute to join Tyler at a truly exclusive dining and culinary experience. Hawthrone, an exclusive island restaurant experience is owned and operated by celebrity Julian Slowik. What she doesn’t know is that this will be the culmination of the Chef’s life’s work. Tonight is scheduled to be a truly special experience. Joining the duo, are a number of celebrities, actors, food critics, business executives. All of tonight’s guests have been specifically chosen with just as much care as the menu has been worried over.

As the couple come to the island, the Chef’s second in command notes that Margot was not originally on the guest list, and reiterates her conspicuousness here multiple times. What is happening here? Why is she being called out? What is really happening here? But pay attention to Margot as she moves through this movie – she is the audience’s stand-in. She is the only one at this event that is seeing things clearly. Especially as the food begins coming out and she begins passing on the “lack of bread” and component part courses. It makes no sense to her. As it would make no sense to most of us, people that enjoy food, but don’t obsess over modern deconstructions and self important “food” facsimiles.

The secrets start pouring out when tortillas, laser printed with the sins and failures of the guests pasts come to the tables. We learn that Richard has had an affair with a prostitute… the food critic has bankrupted numerous established restaurants, etc., etc. But when the mood shifts from food to a discussion of one of the wait staff’s failure… and a monologue, we realize something terrible is about to happen. And that is when this kitchen staff members shoots himself in the head. The guests, unsure if it was real, decide they’ve had enough. They aren’t playing along anymore. Which is when Richard, one of the restaurant’s guests, ring finger is cut off. Still, the guests aren’t certain any of this is real. Is it performance art? Is all the blood fake? What is happening here? And when all the male guests are a told to run for their lives, and then are rounded back up with bloody noses, and various wounds, we get a better feel that what is happening here is not fake at all. And things take a precariously horrible turn when Chef drowns his restaurant’s main investor for his meddling nature right there in front of all the guests.

Eventually, the Chef announces that all the guests here tonight have been chosen for one reason, and one reason alone… they have all contributed in his losing his love for his culinary craft. Or, worse, they make a living off the backs of the work of artists like himself. And that is when he lets everyone know that tonight, everyone in attendance will die. But because Margot’s attendance wasn’t expected, he gives her a choice – will she be a member of the staff, or stay here as a diner? Tyler on the other hand, has been in the know of what was about to happen for the past 8 months. And so when he hired an escort, Margot, to join him, he knew that he was sentencing her to death. Tyler’s fate is later determined when he asks him to cook a course that is found to be horrible. And then he is told to go hang himself in a nearby storeroom. Chef then determines that Margot, who is actually named Erin, belongs with the kitchen staff, and asks her to get retrieve a barrel that he needed for the dessert.

Instead, Erin heads to the Chef’s house to see if she can learn more about the man terrorizing them all. While there, Elsa, Chef’s second, attempts to kill Erin, but Erin stabs her in the neck. Then after seeing the wall hangings on Chef’s wall – that detail his career – she notices a framed photograph of when he was the employee of the month at a burger joint back in his youth. Noticing a short wave radio, Erin calls for help. But the coast guard, signaled for help, turns out to be a member of the staff and in on the plot all along. With that, their only hope, the restaurant guests sort of resign themselves to their fates.

But in a moment of inspiration, Erin claps her hands loudly in the style of Chef, and belittles his food that he has made throughout the evening: “I want to send the food back, I do not like the food. Your food has no love – you cook with obsession not love. Even your hot dishes are cold. Your sole purpose is to serve dishes that your customers will like and you have failed. And you have bored me. And the worst part is? I’m still f***ing hungry.” And the Chef seems honestly gutted by this. She then asks for a cheeseburger… not a cheeseburger reduction, or some other clever spin. An actual cheeseburger. And Chef tells her that he’ll make her a cheeseburger – “a cheap one that your parents could barely afford.”

He makes her a glorious cheeseburger, and she even admits, it’s a glorious specimen. And now, here’s the key – but her eyes were a little bigger than her stomach… and asks to have it to go. The chef packs her food up, and allows her to leave. Erin heads off in the coast guard boat, and when it stalls, she sits down and eats her burger as she watches the island. Back on the island, the Chef makes a tribute to S’mores, putting marshmallow vests on all the guests and chocolate hats on everyone. And then he ignites the restaurant. When the barrel is lit, it explodes, and sends a fireball into the sky far enough for Erin to see out on the water. The explosion obviously kills all the guests, the staff, and the Chef which immolated himself as he began the conflagration.

The Dark Comedy The Menu Movie Explained

What is happening here? There are a lot of individual dynamics including whole sections and fractions of society at large… a representative sampling maybe of our larger culture? Let’s take them in turn as we walk through possible explanations to understanding The Menu. Let’s taken in the reverse order of approximation to The Chef… starting with Erin, and then extending all the way out to the Chef. Alright?

Erin: Margot/Erin, was the only person on this list that didn’t belong. She didn’t belong as a part of the kitchen staff (who we’ll get to in a moment), she didn’t belong as an adoring guest. She didn’t really fit anywhere. But it was clear to the Chef that she obviously didn’t fit as a guest for the meal… she was a blue-blood… someone that worked hard, and didn’t live at the expense of the help. But as Erin worked to just find a way to survive, she eventually gets kicked out of Team Kitchen and flipped to a taker. But Erin flips the script when she delves deep into the psyche of the Chef in order to survive.

Tyler: Tyler is the epitome of the Chef’s cult following of ass-kissing fans. He will do anything, become anything, pay anything, in order for the Chef to look kindly at him. He knows enough to identify many of the Chef’s ingredients with just a taste. But he ultimately is dismissed by the chef and told to go kill himself. Which he does. But notice something key about Tyler – he is just one of many who have vaulted the Chef’s powers to a god-like deific perfection. Tyler sees the Chef as a cult leader… and Tyler drinks deeply from that fatal punch concoction… it is a horrific miscalculation, and ultimately it costs him his life.

The Restaurant Guests: We are told that one by one each of these people are fatally flawed. Worse, they have also bought in on the lie that the Chef has the answers that they are looking for. The Chef reveals though that they are the cause for his disdain for his god-like powers… his hatred for this industry, and this life.

More importantly, as Erin has solved the psychic riddle that is the Chef, and sees daylight in front of her – did you notice how no one seated at the tables attempted to escape with her? Why? We’ll get to that in a moment. But ultimately, the answer is that they saw something unfolding in front of them that they were star-struck by. And maybe, just maybe, this sacrifice would bring them the redemption that they’ve been looking for.

The Kitchen Staff: It’s sort of useless thinking of the Chef and his team as culinary experts. That may be incidentally true, but specifically, they are a part of a cult. It started as a search for the perfect food experience… but now? We have crossed the Rubicon. Now, they are looking for repentance, and perfection through sacrifice and culinary experiences. The team realized that they were searching together for perfection, and that maybe this perfect experience could do something for them that was ultimately religious. A godly experience of justification and forgiveness. And when one of their team members suggests they should make a meal that will end in all their deaths (which I recommend probably was an idea seeded by the Chef) they are all in. Because in this death they were hoping for a lasting earthly experience, as well as a possible forgiveness in the life after.

Chef Slowik: We learn over the course of the movie that Chef made his start as a burger flipper at Hamburger Howie’s. He became “Chef of the Month” and then moved on to creating a restaurant called Tantalus. He was married, and had a child… but they are obviously gone from his life now. Are they dead? (Is this a similar journey to the movie Pig, but with an inverted ending??) He’s come to abuse his staff, and even attempted to sexually mistreat his team.

Regardless, in his attempt to find the new greatest feat in the kitchen he hears a recommendation from one of the women on his team. Which was, that the natural progression of their perfect meal should end in a meal of their own deaths, and the deaths of the guests partaking in the meal. Chef latches on to this idea, and then begins searching for the perfect attendees for such a meal. He starts pulling together actors he hated, business men that had wronged him, partners, critics, and a particularly obsequious sycophant Tyler.

Questions at the End of The Menu Answered:

Why End it in Fire: Again, The Menu is only a thinly-veiled kitchen experience. It’s actually better understood if you think of it as a spiritual cult. And if you look at how fire is used in cults, and also in the major world religions, we see that fire is used as a cleansing agent. A Purifier that destroys sin, and wafts up smoke that is meant to assuage the anger of God. And so Chef immolates himself like a Tibetan Monk lighting himself on fire in protest of some wrong, or in complete compliance.

But Why Didn’t They All Run? Mylod, the director of The Menu is on the record explaining why the restaurant guests didn’t run for their lives: “The absolute futility of escape coupled with the journey they’ve been on, that whisper in the air of Slowik’s words over that evening, over the dinner, the combination of those two elements is just taking them to a place of absolute naked submission.” Notice how at the end when one of the restaurant guests tells Erin to run with a hand motion. She knows that Erin doesn’t belong here, in this tribal cult of obedience and insanity.

But a Cheeseburger? What Does it Mean? These foodies were so over the top that most of these meal courses didn’t make any sense as food at all… but they were all in. Instead of bread, the component parts of bread? Instead of edible food that actually tastes good, they’ve convinced themselves that the insanity that the Chef was passing as food was good. But there isn’t nothing more blue-collar, and tasty than a basic cheeseburger. It runs counter to everything that these people and this chef believe in. So Erin runs cross-grain, and orders a cheeseburger.

How Did Erin Get in the Chef’s Head? Erin realized that there was no escaping this sinking ship. Nope. If she was going to get away she needed to do something really unexpected. So, stops with the ass-kissing that is encircling him… and it surprises him. Shocks him out of his railway to death just long enough for her to shove a splinter of a thought deep within his brain. She knows where he got his start, and she knows his weakness for blue-collar people. People that live honestly, pay their debts (notice how she paid for her $9.95 cheeseburger?), and do right by others. It is through this maneuver that Erin took the Chef back to his roots, back to his more blue-collar background… and caused him to realize what he was doing to her specifically. And thus, it is how she managed to get a to-go box, and an open door to leave the apocalyptic ending that the Chef was conspiring.

Thoughts on Movie The Menu

This might say something horrible about myself, but I adore crazy movies like this one that have deeper meanings for society at large. The Menu, while certainly a dark comedy about the cannibalistic underworld of foodies… I think it is attempting to comment on a much larger segment of society than just that. First we have the ultra-heady, super-insulated Chef… he has gotten so wrapped up in this thing… food in this instance, that he has let go of all sense of reality. Food to him wasn’t even food anymore… it became gimmick. Eating slipped past the need for sustenance and drove off the cliff of all performance. We also have the diners, and they are all evil… well, all but Erin. They’ve all sold out to this underworld in one way or another. They’ve lost a sense of themselves in this unmoored world of theatrics and money. And everyone, including the kitchen staff, have gotten swept up in the cult of personality, cult of itself. Erin on the other hand, sees it all clearly. She sees the meals for the lack of edible food that they are. She sees the performance art as the sham that it is. And practically speaking, she’d like nothing to do with any of it, thank you very much.

But the rest of the diners, the rest of the staff, and the Chef? At the end, they have all sold out. None of them are trying to leave even while they are shoo’ing Erin off, to save herself. It is a great commentary on all aspects of our society that gets so caught up in a thing as to unmoor themselves from all practical reality.

I don’t know – what did you guys think of The Menu? I thought it was crazy…. crazy good.

Edited by: CY