The film stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult as a couple who go on an exclusive dining experience. They are taken by boat to a private island with a small group of guests who have also all paid thousands of dollars for the opportunity.
But things are not as they seem: celebrity chef Julian Slowik (played by Ralph Fiennes) instead plans to kill all of his unlucky guests by the end of the night. Taylor-Joy’s character, Margot, is the first to see that something is off, and her suspicions are confirmed when Slowik’s sadistic plan begins to unfold.
The film joins a long line of recent TV shows and films poking fun at the ultra-rich (think Triangle of Sadness, The Crown, Succession, The White Lotus): “Anti-capitalism is hot again,” said a British newspaper about The Menu. Town & Country said the film focuses on “the restaurant business and the one percent, who do both perfectly”.
The Menu was first released in cinemas on November 11 (in the UK it opened on November 18) and has since grossed $73 million worldwide, on a reported budget of $30 million.
On the whole, critics enjoyed The Menu: “in the end, this is a near-perfectly executed meal of a film, made with exceptional ingredients and skill,” said one British newspaper, while another said: “Stupid but delicious, The Menu is a feast for the senses, if not the brain”.
The New York Times said: “The menu is black, broad and sometimes clumsy, attacking the issues more often with a knife than with a cleaver. Yet everyone is having such a good time that it is impossible not to join them.”
The cast also includes Janet McTeer (Ozark) who plays a food critic, Hong Chau (The Whale) who plays the restaurant’s maitre d’ and John Leguizamo (John Wick) who plays an actor past his prime.
The Menu marks Mylod’s return to directing after a decade – his last film was What’s Your Number? from 2011? The script was written by Seth Reiss, who worked on Late Night with Seth Myers for six years, and Will Tracy, who wrote several episodes of Succession and who worked on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
“We were both fascinated by this type of restaurant at this point in culinary history,” Tracy told Town & Country. “It’s going out of fashion a bit – the creepy, white, usually male chef. And Slowik knows a little about that. There is an anxiety that it will all end: ‘What I do must mean something more than just pleasing these people I can’t stand.’
“[The film is] in some ways a love letter to this type of restaurant when it’s done well, but also about all that bullsh*t.”
At the 2023 Golden Globes, which will take place next week in California, The Menu is in the running for two awards: Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy for Fiennes and Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy for Taylor-Joy.
This year Taylor-Joy also starred in Robert Egger’s marmite Norse action thriller The Northman, and in David O. Russell’s period comedy Amsterdam. Fiennes last starred in 2021’s The King’s Man, and will also reunite with Wes Anderson in Anderson’s next film, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, which is based on the short story by Roald Dahl and is set for release in 2023.
The menu is now available for streaming on Disney+