Director: Mark Mylod
Date Created: 2022-11-18 00:00
“Babe. Please don’t smoke. It’ll kill your palette.”
Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) persuades his date, Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), to extinguish her cigarette using his pretentious, extreme foodie nerdisms. Soon after, they board a boat filled with elite passengers on their way to the isolated, exclusive, and very expensive restaurant, Hawthorne.
The Menu Movie Summary with Spoilers
Upon arrival at Hawthorne Island, each guest is accounted for except for Margot whose name is not on the list. The head hostess, Elsa (Hong Chau) makes an unusually big deal of Margot’s name not being on the guest list as Tyler originally made the reservation for his now ex-girlfriend.
Here we learn that Margot and Tyler’s relationship is relatively fresh as Tyler doesn’t even know her last name.
After check-in, the guests are given a tour of Hawthorne Island where every minute detail of nature is harvested to create the most delicately balanced dishes.
We learn that the chef and the kitchen staff live on the island as well, bound by a strict regimen that doesn’t allow time for travel back and forth from the island. We also learn that the chef’s house is strictly forbidden from outside entry. Even his closest staff is barred from entering.
After the tour, the guests are taken to the Hawthorne dining room, a large structure that blends both modern and rustic design. Wooden frames contrast bright blue walls and floor-to-ceiling windows.
We meet the army-like kitchen staff and get a glimpse of the powerful, mysterious chef himself.
Know-it-all Tyler feels the need to engage a sous-chef Jeremy in conversation eager to share his knowledge of lesser-known cooking tools like the Pacojet.
“Pacojet is a kitchen appliance for professionals that micro-purees deep-frozen foods into ultra-fine textures without thawing.” - Wikipedia
Jeremy dismisses Tyler, letting him know that it’s almost time for the appetizer.
Amuse Bouche (Appetizer)
An amusing contrast to the earthy vibes of Hawthorne island, the initial dish is highlighted in stunning HD quality as it rotates on a plate as if we’re watching an everyday competitive cooking show.
As the guests enjoy their Amuse Bouche, we learn a little more about them, piece by piece.
A seasoned food critic (Janet McTeer) meticulously pulls apart each detail of the dining experience with her yes-man editor (Paul Adelstein).
A wealthy older couple (Judith Light & Reed Birney) who frequent Hawthorne share terse conversation, the wife questioning her husband’s loyalty.
A movie star past his prime (John Leguizamo) and his personal assistant (Aimee Carrero) consider new career paths.
Tech bro business partners (Rob Yang, Arturo Castro & Mark St. Cyr) unveil that their only personality traits are money, power, and entitlement.
And finally, a woman (Rebecca Koon) that we learn is the chef’s mother, slouches semi-consciously in the corner, drunk as usual.
Course 1: The Island
The chef interrupts the guests’ conversation with a single, resounding clap that brings the room to stark attention as he introduces himself as Julian Slowick.
Chef Slowick (Ralph Fiennes) delivers an introductory monologue to the first course that brings Tyler to tears.
Despite the restaurant’s strict “no photographs” policy, Tyler’s foodie tendencies are unable to quit as he not-so-secretly snaps photos of the elaborate first course.
We hear the guests as they critique the food with analyses ranging from single-worded elementary observation to Ph.D. scholastic descriptions.
So far, the theatrical element of the restaurant is within the realm of normality.
Course 2: Breadless Bread Plate
After the first course, Chef Slowick goes into his second monologue introducing the breadless bread plate.
Despite his reasoning for the absence of bread, the tech bros are annoyed by the lack of sustenance and try to use their influence to demand bread from Elsa, the head hostess.
Elsa does not give a flying bread plate what the customer wants and plainly tells them, “No.” As they continue to protest, she leans into one of them and whispers in his ear, “You will eat less than you desire and more than you deserve.”
This is where the yellow flags begin to fly as the confused guests try to process this strange behavior and cultish sayings.
The saying, “The customer is always right,” is further defied when after the food critic complains about the broken appearance of one of the bread sauces, Elsa brings a whole bowl of broken sauce to her at the request of the chef to further spite her.
At Hawthorne, the chef is always right.
Course 3: Memory
The next course is called Memory, a course inspired by the chef’s traumatic childhood memory associated with Taco Tuesday. Chef Slowick uses his alcoholic mother as a character in this monologue as he tells the story of how when his father tried to choke his mother with a telephone chord, he protected her by stabbing his father in the thigh.
Soon after telling this harrowing story, the kitchen staff delivers the elevated Taco Tuesday meals. On each tortilla is printed a memory specific to each guest. Some pictures include private moments from each guest, almost as if the kitchen staff has been stalking them.
The temperature rises as the restaurant’s actions become more abnormal and guests realize that the kitchen knows their most incriminating secrets.
On the other hand, Tyler’s tortilla is tattooed with pictures taken of him just minutes before, taking pictures of the food. He becomes worried that the chef hates him. The tech bros become worried that they’ll go to jail and the food critic continues to write it off as theater, somewhat unfazed that her tortillas contained images of restaurants that closed due to her ruthless critiques.
There is no tortilla for Margot because she wasn’t supposed to be there. Chef Slowick corners her during her escape to the bathroom for a smoke and makes her disruptive presence very clear to her.
Course 4: The Mess
This is the course where all feces hits the fan.
Chef Slowick invites sous chef Jeremy to the stage to join his pre-course performance. After a speech on the deep unfulfillment experienced after accomplishing his dream to work for Chef Slowick, Jeremy whips out a gun from nowhere, opens his mouth, and places the gun’s barrel in it.
Jeremy is dead.
The restaurant guests are reasonably shaken as Chef Slowick aims to calm them by reminding them that it’s all part of the show.
Obviously, the guests are not convinced and when the older couple attempts to leave, the husband is manhandled and gets his ring finger cut off.
The chef requests to speak with Margot so that he can find out whether she would like to die with the guests or with the staff.
Yes, that’s right – DIE. He reveals to Margot that by the end of the evening, everyone will die.
The tech bros try to escape by breaking through the window but it’s unbreakable.
This bitter course tastes like danger.
This tea is a futile attempt at trying to soothe the trauma of watching a man shoot himself before one’s very eyes.
In Chef Slowicks pre-course speech, he speaks of his grievances with the angel investor who financially saved his restaurant during covid meaning he now owns it. Abusing his power, this investor, Doug Verrick, would be so dastardly as to request substitutions at a restaurant as elite as Hawthorne. The gall!
Outside the window, the man who technically owns the restaurant is donned in angel wings and hung up above the waters surrounding the restaurant. He’s slowly lowered into the water to drown even as his employees (the tech bros) try to bribe Slowick with money for their escape.
This meal makes it clear that the chef harbors grievances, from understandable to absurd, against everyone in the room. Everyone except for Margot.
After this spectacle, Chef pulls Margot aside again trying to gauge who she is so he can figure out whether she dies as a giver or a taker. Unable to make a decision, Margot unveils only that she is an escort who worked for the husband of the elderly couple.
Course 5: Man’s Folly
The 5th course takes the guests outside. Chef Slowick brings a female sous chef named Katherine center stage as she recites her monologue of how Chef Slowick sexually harassed her.
She then proceeds to stab him in the thigh at his request.
After this demonstration, Slowick gives the men of the restaurant a proposition: they have 45 seconds to try to escape the island while they’re outside before the male employees hunt them down. If they’re caught they’re stuck at the restaurant. Otherwise, they’re free.
While the men attempt to escape, the women enjoy the 5th course inside the restaurant and learn that the idea to kill everyone on the island was Katherine’s. We also learn that Margot’s real name is Erin.
Soon after, all the men return bruised, bloodied, and overpowered by Hawthorne’s employees as the final course looms ahead.
The only bright spot was that the last man to be caught by Hawthorne’s employees was rewarded with a bonus treat, adding an incongruent sense of lightness to a life-or-death situation.
Before the final course though, the chef finds it necessary to confront Tyler’s disturbance of the night.
Course 5.5: Tyler’s BS
As the chef interrogates Tyler we learn that Tyler knew of the menu and what it entailed before he came to Hawthorne island. He knew that everyone who dined at the restaurant that day would die that night.
Knowing this, when his girlfriend broke up with him, he hired Margot as an escort to accompany him because Hawthorne doesn’t offer reservations for only one person.
Learning this information, Margot understandably goes feral on Tyler unfortunately only getting one good punch in before others pull her away from him.
Chef proceeds to talk to Tyler, buttering him up about his expansive knowledge of food and Pacojets before ushering him into the kitchen and donning a chef’s jacket on him.
Tyler proceeds to make the world’s most unsavory dish sweating under the pressure of everyone’s watchful eyes.
The chef tastes it and declares that it’s quite – bad. Then Chef draws Tyler in and whispers something in his ear that convinces him to go to the back of the kitchen and hang himself.
Deciding that Margot will die with the staff, the chef sends her on her first task to retrieve a barrel needed for dessert. Elsa is very jealous that this task has been given to someone other than herself.
On her quest to retrieve the barrel, Margot arms herself with a knife and decides to make a detour to Slowick’s mysterious house. Elsa followed Margot there and proceeded to fight her, causing Margot to knock her over the head with a Pacojet and accidentally stab Elsa in the throat, killing her.
Margot further explores behind the forbidden gray door of Slowick’s house and finds his inner room with a picture of him joyfully flipping burgers in his early cooking years. She also finds a radio that she uses to call for help.
Returning to the diner with blood on her clothes and the barrel, Margot awaits help. When the Coast Guard arrives, the guests become hopeful, sending a secret message of help only to find out that the Coast Guard was one of Slowick’s employees the whole time.
He uses his fake gun to light a candle as Slowick and the staff laughs.
Hope is dwindling with each course.
Slowick, knowing it was Margot who made the call, confronts her, calling her an eater, a taker like all the other people in the room who he has grievances big and small with.
Pondering on this with only 5 minutes until the final lethal course, Margot rises with purpose to give her own resounding clap.
She declares to Slowick that she doesn’t like his food and she’s still hungry.
“You cook with obsession, not love,” she says.
Amused, the chef asks what she would like to eat then. Taking a page from his employee of the month burger-flipping photo in his room, Margot orders a traditional cheeseburger with fries.
Obviously up for the “challenge,” Chef proceeds to make the most mouthwatering cheeseburger, a cheeseburger so succulent you will have to pay a visit to your local burger place ASAP to satiate the cravings.
The whole time that the chef is crafting this burger, there is an air of joy and freedom about him that he didn’t have before.
Margot enjoys a bite of the cheeseburger, voicing her pleasure with it, and politely asks for a to-go box. Chef Slowick complies, gives her a Hawthorne gift bag including the day’s menu, and thanks her for dining at Hawthorne.
Dropping a 10 dollar bill on the table as she collects her things, Margot walks cautiously towards the door giving the remaining guests a final look over before her exit. Defeat in their eyes, they wordlessly encourage her to go while she’s given this opportunity.
Margot is let out of the building and she finds the coast guard’s boat, escaping the island with it.
The rest of the guests sit in misery as they’re dressed up in marshmallow tops and chocolate hats.
Course 6: S’Mores
The restaurant floor is garnished with graham cracker crumbs, artful colorful sauces, and littered with wine.
Slowick recites his final monologue for the final course as the guests peacefully accept that this is how they’re going to die. Unfortunately, they will not be getting s’more time.
Then, the audience sees the final dish:
The description of the s’more is what makes this film such a dark comedy. Notice the progression of ingredients from normal to tragic.
Chef Slowick drops a lump of flaming coal along the lines of alcohol filling the dining room, and the kitchen staff turns up the gas from the ovens.
Margot hears the explosion as she’s enjoying her to-go burger on the boat, she watches the flames in wonder as she wipes her mouth with Hawthorne’s menu.
A story of a chef’s grievances taken to absurd extremes, The Menu is dark, comical satire at its finest. A clever critique of food culture, entitlement, and classism, this story will have you swinging between serious sentiment and mindless laughter.
With a storyline this deviously delicious, The Menu will have you coming back for seconds.
What is your favorite part of The Menu? Let me know in the comments below!
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Peace, love, and lots of popcorn,