Not to be too much of a tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy monger, but the obnoxiously rich finding themselves in tremendously dangerous situations imagined by recent films does make one wonder if there may be an underground revolution brewing. The noble idea of grouping them up (not that they need any push with that) and sending them off on a blindfolded journey that will inevitably lead to violent payback has been resurfacing in some of the most significant movies of 2022 and, evidently, 2023. Mark Mylod’s satirical horror, “The Menu”may have taken “Eat the Rich” a tad bit too seriously. And that would have been perfectly splendid if “The Menu” didn’t ironically fool itself with the same breed of delusion that it means to ridicule. If you aren’t already rolling your eyes and thinking “again?” By the time the introductory sequence has established its point, beware that you’re about to be a witness to the bizarre unfolding of a vengeful, sociopathic chef’s outrageous design. It’s amusing at times, even if chef Slowik’s amuse-bouche isn’t. But the absurdity of the narrative is ignorantly butchered by exhaustive and exhausting monologues that say nothing we don’t already know. Yet, we came, we saw, and we conquered the 106 minutes. And while we thank our measly bank accounts for saving us from a Hawthorne trip, let’s dive into the happenings of the film and what it wants to convey.
‘The Menu’ Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
A short ferry ride and 1250$ for a Hawthorne experience may not yield a plated-up Rolex, but all a group of snooty rich people cares about while heading to a strange island is chef Julian Slowik’s snob-approved culinary dexterity. Amongst the blessed are pompous food critic Lillian Bloom and her yes-man editor Ted, a washed-up actor and his assistant Felicity, affected Hawthorne regulars Richard and Anne, a trio of intolerable tech bros, and wannabe foodie Tyler with his date Margot. Bothered by Margot’s cigarette-smoke-tainted palate, Tyler finds the first of many opportunities to mansplain the significance of his chef-idol Slowik’s art. Clearly a misfit amongst the haughty crowd, Margot doesn’t particularly have the same appreciation for microscopic portions of pretentious food. So, while Tyler is almost about to break down in tears from the gloriousness of the little lemon caviar garnished treat, Margot just doesn’t see the point of all the fuss. Setting foot on the island that holds and nourishes all that goes into Slowik’s culinary magic, the group is greeted by Elsa, the no-nonsense enforcer of Slowik’s laws. Margot’s feeling of not belonging is elevated when she finds out that Tyler was supposed to be here with someone else. As the group sees the island through the eyes of its worshiper and protector, Elsa, they are instantly taken by the labyrinthine grandeur of it all.
They are walked to the army compound-esque housing of Slowik’s crew, where Elsa details the rigorous work, they put into each course. When asked if she ever feels burnt out, Elsa proudly professes the undying fire they all feel for their lord and savior, chef Slowik. To serve him and give their all to help him create a unique menu are all they live for. The group then marvels at the sight of 152-day-cured dairy cow meat. Establishing further that they are not playing around, Elsa delineates the fatal danger that will befall the consumer when she is asked about the consequences of 153 days of curing instead of 152. Passing the strictly no-entry zone of Slowik’s home, the group enters the revered restaurant through the opening of a square of wood. The guests are welcome to look at the kitchen crew as they prepare the specialized menu for the night. Enthused, Tyler talks to sous chef Jeremy just to get a chance to flaunt his knowledge of the project. Shocking the guests with a clap that seizes the crew’s motion, Slowik introduces himself through a monologue that captures the essence of the experience he has planned. The guests start their journey of taste with an intricate amuse-bouche. While star-stuck Tyler takes it as an experience of a lifetime, and Lillian can sense the little goat behind the powdered goat milk, Margot is unimpressed. Tyler ignores the clear order not to take pictures and takes pictures of the food anyway. The next course, “The Island,” brings the everlasting elements of the very island together. Tyler’s remark about the island clam is heard by the chef, and while Tyler is anxious about Slowik being upset by it, he doesn’t really mind.
What Do Slowik’s Courses Signify?
Slowik had made one thing clear from the start: they were to experience the food, not eat it. The air of ominous tension gets heavier with each course the chef introduces. The next course that follows is a clear mockery designed by the chef. The guests only receive a plate of condiments, not the signature red fife bread Hawthorne is famous for. In Slowik’s words, bread is a food of the common man, and the guests that can pay the unreasonable amount that Hawthorne charges are anything but common. While it’s ridicule that flies right over their heads, Slowik meant for it to be a humiliating prank that insults the pretentious preferences of the filthy rich. Lillian finds one condiment to be split, and Ted, because his entire existence means nothing if he doesn’t agree with everything she says, backs her claim. Margot is all but done with the ridiculousness of Slowik’s food, and she isn’t touching the condiments. Slowik notices the difference in mannerisms and expressions between Margot and the rest of his guests. But before he can prod further, the tech bros that work for Doug Verrick cause a ruckus over not getting bread.
After having Elsa intimidate them into sitting back down, the chef proceeds with the next course, “Memory.” Shocking the fragile and sheltered group, Slowik introduces the course with a personal anecdote that takes a much darker turn than they expect. Acknowledging his mother, who is also present at the restaurant, Slowik vocally reminisces the time he stabbed his abusive father in the thigh with a pair of scissors to stop him from strangling his mom. The uncomfortable guests soothe themselves with the idea that the chef is merely unusually eccentric. However, the false sense of comfort soon vanishes when they find their plates to contain chicken thighs with little kitchen scissors, and on the side, there are tortillas with threatening, personal photographs etched on them. While the tech guys find their company’s corruption on the tortillas, Anne is unnerved to see a picture of her husband Richard with a strange woman. The actor’s tortilla is a reminder of his failed movie “Calling Doctor Sunshine.” Lillian’s tortillas are shameful reminders of the restaurants that closed because of her negative reviews.
Margot is furious to see that Tyler’s tortillas contain Tyler’s embarrassing photographs. Despite Tyler’s apprehension about confronting the chef about the violation of privacy, he truly doesn’t mind. Margot calls him out anyway. And when Tyler lashes out at her for even daring to offend Slowik, Margot runs to the ladies’ room to cool off. Ambushing her in secret, Slowik wants to know about her real identity. He can sense that she doesn’t belong in Hawthorne. When Margot expresses her wish to leave Hawthorne, she learns that there is no way out. Slowik’s idea behind the “Memory” course is to make them face their shady activities and the misdeeds that will embarrass anybody with a speck of sensibility.
Huddling up after the shocking course, the guests can’t possibly imagine the horror that is to follow. Sous chef Jeremy is given a space midstage to present his specialty course, “The Mess.” Hovering over him, Slowik talks about the emptiness in Jeremy’s life that has been brought on by his wish to gain Slowik’s stature. Jeremy has given his career everything he has. But because he will never really be Slowik, no matter the level of culinary greatness he achieves, he finds his life meaningless and without a goal. With Slowik’s assistance and a slight nudge, Jeremy eats a bullet and falls dead in the midst of the frantic guests. As they try to convince themselves that it’s all a show, and the vainglorious Lillian believes that it is for her benefit, the food reaches the anxious tables. Richard decides that he has had enough. Instead of being allowed to leave, however, he loses his ring finger. At this point, most of the guests are unfortunately aware that they have been taken hostage by the lunatic chef. Jeremy’s death and Richard’s finger being chopped off were only the opening volley, marking the beginning of the violent end. The tech trio’s hope that Doug Verrick will save them drowns with Verrick himself as the entire frenzied group witnesses the murder.
Why Is Slowik Interested In Margot’s Truth?
From the moment he laid eyes on Margot, Slowik felt that she was different. In the privacy of the kitchen, he asks her to choose a side. She is implored to pick between the side of the takers, like the obnoxious guests, and the side of the givers, like Slowik and the kitchen crew. All Margot wants to know is if she is going to get out of Hawthorne alive. But she learns that every person present in the specialized food experience will die. Otherwise, the menu doesn’t work. In the crowd of privileged jerks, Slowik has picked up on Margot’s working-class sensibility. He has also noticed the uncomfortable looks between Richard and Margot. Clearing up his doubts, Margot comes clean about her career as an escort. Her resemblance to Richard’s daughter made the rich freak hire her just so that he could defile himself while she looked and reassured him of her love for him. The course that follows coincides with Margot’s experience as a woman in the service industry. All the guests are brought outside for “Man’s Folly,” where sous chef Katherine bares her heart about the multiple inappropriate sexual advances Slowik has made toward her. Instead of an apology, Katherine received the silent treatment from Slowik, and now, to make him pay for it, she stabs him in the leg. Slowik then proceeds to give the men 45 seconds to run from the crew while the women sit inside. Without the need for a straightforward confrontation, Anne realizes how Margot knows Richard. Margot says that her real name is Erin. While the men run and hide, the women inside are close to giving up hope. The only one with a little bit of life left is Margot. Her conversations with Slowik made her realize that Slowik doesn’t harbor the same bitterness toward her as he does toward the rich snobs.
Why Does Slowik Want The Experience To End With Murder-Suicide?
To understand Slowik’s sociopathic drive behind perfecting a murderous menu, we need to look at the specific hatred he has for the people that are dining at his restaurant. Tyler’s intolerable obsession with proving his knowledge about food has made him psychotic. All he has is money and a general hobby. His lack of self-awareness makes him think that he’s one of the pros. Playing with his frustrating urge to experience Hawthorne, Slowik was honest with him about the deadly outcome. Not only did Tyler believe that the experience was worth his life, but he even hired Margot to come with him, knowing that she would die as well. When put to the test, his subpar culinary skills come up with a plate of undercooked garbage. To Slowik, a man as vain and worthless as Tyler has no business living. And Tyler embraced the death sentence a little too eagerly. In the case of Lillian, it was Slowik who sent the invitation. In his chaotic mind, she committed the death-worthy crime of hurting unfortunate restaurants by giving them awful reviews. But her bigger crime was putting Slowik on the map with a glowing review.
The review that brought Slowik into the world of upper-class snobs who insisted on lifeless, meaningless, deconstructed food sucked the joy out of cooking. Taking her life is Slowik’s revenge on her for killing his love for cooking. The tech bros enabled and added to the monstrosities of the company that owns Hawthorne. Their mindless rants about Hawthorne’s inadequacy only serve as the cherry on top. Coming to the painfully boring couple that has been a regular at Hawthorne, Slowik’s hatred towards their privileged indifference has been long brewing. They only came to Hawthorne because their finances allowed them to. They neither care about the food nor the effort that goes into perfecting it. What seals their death card with an enraged finality is their failure to remember at least one dish they ordered on their seven visits. The reason why he plans to kill the actor, however, is as absurd as it is random. By killing the actor, Slowik wants to avenge his rare day off that was ruined by watching “Calling Doctor Sunshine.” These are the people he hates with a passion. He hates them enough to even add a detailed prank of a faux coast guard that Margot called when she snuck into his room. And wasting his life trying to use his art to cater to the kind of people who simply do not care about food is why Slowik has sentenced himself to death as well.
‘The Menu’ Ending Explained: How Does Margot’s Liberation Point To Slowik’s Flawed Understanding Of Class Division?
What Slowik’s fight against capitalism and privilege ultimately results in is the formation of a cult. Clearly blinded by his one goal, Slowik doesn’t see that his crew only joined hands with him because they idolize him. He has planned to end the show with a toasty dessert in which the guests themselves will be ingredients. The uncomplicated innocence of s’mores becomes a terrifying weapon in the rabid chef’s hands. Before he can proceed with the mass murder-suicide, Margot finds a way to manipulate his working-class sensibility into getting free. In Slowik’s room, she noticed an old, happy picture of him flipping a burger. She realized that the last time Slowik was happy was when he didn’t have the burden of pleasing people who only wanted to flaunt their cash and didn’t care about the food. Stopping the crew in the midst of their process of spreading chocolate and crushed crackers around the room, Margot draws Slowik’s attention. She tells him that she hasn’t enjoyed the food that he has been serving and that she wants to send it back. When Slowik asks her why she didn’t like the food, she says that she did not feel the love that food is supposed to be made with. She wants a cheeseburger—a good, no-nonsense cheeseburger with American cheese. Slowik is overwhelmed with joy while making the cheeseburger for her and watching her take a bite. He has always shown a muted dilemma about murdering Margot. So, when she smartly asks if she can have the rest of it packed to go, Slowik doesn’t think twice about setting her free. She consumes the rest of the cheeseburger on the departing boat while the rest of the guests and the crew burn to a crisp with marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers.
The problem with Slowik’s notion of the class division was that he romanticized the working class while hating the evils of capitalism and privilege. While his love for his art was being butchered by rich idiots, all he could think of was the happiness he felt when he cooked wholesome meals for regular people. Associating that happy feeling with the entire existence of the working class made him blind to the fact that they are just humans. They are not without flaws. They are definitely not above the general follies of mankind. So, when Margot gave him the opportunity to go back to the happier days for the last time, he did not take heed of her real intention. All she wanted was to be free. And why shouldn’t she? Margot couldn’t care less about the sad turn Slowik’s life took once he rose to his stature. Being a working-class woman doesn’t make her special. She is only a person who does not want to die a horrible, unfair death. At the same time, Slowik was blissfully unaware that he was also a part of the capitalistic cycle. Granted, he suffered at the hands of unreasonable demands as he was walking up the stairs of success. Nonetheless, he did get to the top. And at the top, he found fame, money, and the kind of image that justified a $1250 plate. He had an entire crew that moved at the snap of his fingers. To the crew, he became someone to be worshiped to the death. And what is that if not being at the top of a food chain? If one argues that he harbors a lot of pain and that somehow justifies his psychotic tendency, why can’t the same empathy be applied to the people who died? If personal pain doesn’t justify oppression, it certainly doesn’t justify unreasonable crimes. While trying to be the flagbearer of the oppressed class’ revolution, Slowik forgot that he was, in fact, a taker.