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The meaning of "The Menu" - a gastronomic movie with rich ingredients

There are many, just VERY many movies and TV series devoted to the theme of Eat the rich, but it seems that "The Menu" with Anya Taylor-Joy and Ralph Fiennes in the main roles embodies this theme most literally.

Let's get to the core of what's going on at the Hawthorne Restaurant, where a dinner party with a unique menu is going to be held, but I must warn you right away:

There are a lot of spoilers in the text. And if you want to see the movie first, don't read the article. Thank you.
The movie follows a young couple, Margot (Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Hoult), who travel to a remote island to dine at the exclusive Hawthorne Restaurant, whose menu has been specially designed by enigmatic chef Julian Slovik (Fiennes).

Naturally, all is not as it seems, and it soon becomes clear that each guest has been carefully selected to witness Slovik's team as they craft their final menu.

Since the movie takes place in a high-end restaurant, three Michelin-starred chef Dominic Crenn was brought in to design the food, and real restaurant staff was filmed to make the food scenes as realistic as possible. All the food prepared in the show is real foodporn.
Each table in the restaurant can be read as the seven deadly sins: Envy (aspiring chef Tyler), Gluttony (Julian's alcoholic mother), Greed (the finance brothers), Lust (the adulterous Richard), Pride (snobby critics), Laziness (actor George getting a paycheck), and Wrath (Julian and the kitchen).
And although the meal itself seems to start as a normal expensive meal, from literally the third course we see little clues, alarm bells, that something has gone wrong.
The first real indication that something abnormal is going on comes in the third course, "Flashback," when Julian recounts his childhood abuse at the hands of his alcoholic father (whom he once stabbed in the leg with scissors and now wishes he hadn't aimed for his throat) and neglect at the hands of his equally alcoholic mother...who sits in the room in a drunk shock. He then serves the guests a chicken pierced with scissors.

And here are some more "Chekhov's guns" prepared for us by the creators of the movie:

  • When Tyler tells Margo to stop making fun of the $1,250 price tag on her head, she shrugs and replies: "It's your bill." Turns out she's stopping the conversation not because he's paying for dinner, but because he's paying for her to act like a compliant companion. Similarly, when Margo refuses to eat one of the entrees, Tyler yells at her that "he's the one paying."

    Additionally, when they first arrive on the island, Tyler does not know Margo's last name. We can assume that this is just the beginning of their relationship and he's an inattentive, pompous jerk. In reality, it's because she works as an escort and either she didn't tell him or he didn't ask.
  • Elsa mentions at the very beginning that the cooks never set anything on fire unless it's specifically for the menu. The movie ends with everyone on the island burning to the ground, which is the conclusion of the titular menu.
  • Slovic says that each guest should think of themselves as "the ingredients of the tasting note." Later on, they all become part of the ingredients of the final dish.
  • At the very beginning of the meal, Anna mentions that Margot looks a lot like her and Richard's daughter, which he angrily denies. Later that evening, Margot (who works as an escort) tells Julian that she had a strange role-play with Richard in which she pretended to be his daughter.
  • After receiving tortillas with evidence of his fraud, one guest threatened to have it closed by morning, to which Elsa replied, "That won't be necessary." Julian and his staff had already planned to close the restaurant that same night with the help of a fatality.
  • While taking a smoke break in the restroom, Margo sees giant wings through an open window as they prepare to show off the "angel investor."
  • At the very beginning, Tyler notices the PacoJet machine used by the chefs. Later, Margo uses this machine to briefly incapacitate Elsa.
  • Margo sees photos displayed in Chef Julian's house that show that the only time he was truly happy was when he was a humble cook at a burger joint. Taking advantage of this, she catches him off guard and convinces him to let her escape.
  • Tyler's dissonant calm in the face of all this chaos makes a lot more sense when we learn that he was told in advance that no one would make it out of the restaurant alive.
The composition of the movie is also interesting - each dish is labeled with captions, as if we were really in a restaurant, or as if we were reading an actual menu. The glamorous shots of the dishes and subtitles are done as a parody of the footage from the documentary series "Chef's Table". The credits include even the most spontaneous and unexpected dishes, creating a "Here and Now" effect.

  • "The Mess" concludes with the words "R.I.P Jeremy Louden."
  • The dish that Chef Julian makes Tyler cook is called "Tyler's Bullshit" and all the ingredients are described in disparaging terms.
  • The cheeseburger is described as "Just a very well done cheeseburger", there isn't even an ingredient list.
  • The ingredients for S'mores "include the guests, the staff, and the restaurant.

So what really happened, and why did events turn so tragically?

Chef Julian Slovic was indeed a remarkable personality. In addition to the fact that he cooked extraordinary dishes with a huge check and arranged dinner parties for the elite, he also created a sect of his followers from the kitchen staff. All of them fell under his influence and were ready to sacrifice their lives without a second thought, even suggested such a variant of events.

And one day Slowik simply realized that he no longer enjoyed cooking all these unique dishes, he lost his taste in life and his work.

He is definitely a psychopath, and he has gathered in one place all those whom he considered guilty of his "tragedy" to destroy. That's why every guest was so carefully selected, that's why he kept telling Margot that she shouldn't be here.

Although, there are questions to the selection of guests too. For example, the "Dr. Sunshine" actor only made it to the island because Julian didn't like the movie featuring the actor, which Slovik spent his day off on. And the actor's companion was unlucky only because she graduated from Brown University, which means she is also from a rich family. But he does not get into what kind of person this is, and just decides to kill her at the same time.
The guests, on the one hand, try to resist at first, though they really do it less actively, though they could, as if submitting to the learned helplessness, the rich habit that everything will be done for you. And this is very similar to the movie "Triangle of Sadness" - there the rich guests also failed to take the helm of fate into their own hands. And only Margot, being actually a working class escort, speaks her mind and actually tries to save herself.

Slovic immediately sees that she is not "one of them" and says that he has known many Margot, but that is not her name. This is the kind of technique called Sherlock Scan in storitelling. And in fact, from this moment begins the confrontation between the chief and the girl. The whole second part of the movie we wonder whether she will get away alive or not.
In fact, even if any of the guests tried to get out of the restaurant, it would still be impossible to leave - no boat is moored off the island until a Coast Guard representative arrives, which also happens to be part of the show.

So what does Margot do? After seeing a picture in Slovik's house of him cooking burgers like the best fast food worker ever, she suddenly has a "Eureka moment" and claps her hands just like Slovik did before, thus creating some "ironic echo".

She declares that she's still hungry and actually wants a burger. By doing so, she awakens Julian's nostalgia and zest for life and he, grateful, lets her go. I mean, he's been evaluated for so long by all these snobbish critics, deciding whether or not his sauce is layered, that he's just really happy to hear that someone just really tastes good.

Of course, the scene with Margot leaving is a climax. After paying for the burger, she takes it with her and leaves on a yacht that runs out of gas literally two miles off the island. Which is why she stops and finishes the burger against the backdrop of an epically burning island.
The whole dinner takes place in Extremely Short Timespan - in 4-5 hours, and it's definitely a bottle movie, because it takes place in one building, and there aren't even flashbacks. But until the very end, we still don't believe that the chef's evil crew is plotting to kill all of his guests - they even hand out gifts at the end of the dinner, as if they're going to let everyone go.

The point of the movie is that it doesn't matter how rich and famous you are - delicacies won't make you happy. The main thing is a taste for life, initiative and receptivity.

In general, there are still many mysteries and nuances in this movie, many of which did not fit into my analysis. For example, the chief's guestbook is only filled out through 2019, which gives us reason to wonder if the stoppage in work due to the pandemic had an impact on Slovik's psychopathy. All in all, the movie is definitely a double-bottom movie and not for once, so you can revisit it again and again and find new hidden meanings and "Chekhovian guns".
What interesting plot points did you notice?