Like the restaurant it portrays, The Menu serves up multiple themes and tones as dishes of sorts throughout the film. At times, The Menu is a black comedy commenting on class anxiety and capitalistic greed. At other points, the film incorporates horror and dramatic tones to keep the audience guessing, especially toward the end of the film. Director Mark Mylod cited the different tones and issues of The Menu as reasons for jumping on board.
“I think one of the things that drew us all to the project was that lovely mash-up of tones that … as Anya [Taylor-Joy] said, ‘It’s quite a small target to hit.’ But we were all attracted to how specific that was,” said Mylod in a press conference. “And then I think, for me, it was the few days or the week that we spent doing our version of rehearsals, which was basically to sit together or in smaller groups in a room and just talk about issues that interested us in the script and in our story and about our characters. And in doing so, it was perhaps less about what we were actually saying and more about us all tuning in by osmosis, perhaps unconsciously, to get on the same level.”
The Menu follows a couple (Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) who journey to a Pacific Northwest island to dine at an exclusive restaurant featuring celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Full of rich, spoiled, and unlikable guests, the restaurant becomes a house of horrors as the tension increases with each new dish. At the center of the film is Fiennes, someone who Taylor-Joy sings the praises of throughout the press conference.
“Oh, what can I say about Ralph? He’s the most phenomenal actor. But the thing that’s interesting is he’s so talented that whatever he wants to transmute on screen, that will happen. So of course, as an audience member, you will feel this formidable presence and this fear whenever he’s there,” said Taylor-Joy. “Maybe it was our characters, maybe it’s the way that we both approach acting. All of our scenes together felt so warm and intimate even when we were being quite rude to each other when the stakes were pretty high. I always just felt really comfortable with him and I felt like I had a very generous dance partner and that we were both enjoying that bizarre intimacy. We had a great time together.”
Directed by Mylod based on a script from Seth Reiss and Will Tracy, The Menu features a strong ensemble cast of Fiennes, Taylor-Joy, Hoult, Janet McTeer, Judith Light, Hong Chau, and John Leguizamo. For Leguizamo, the thematic commentary on wealth, class, and privilege was spot-on as those elements that are playing out in today’s society.
“Yeah, I love the political and social commentary of this film because I feel like it’s tapping into something that’s happening, especially in America, maybe across the world as well,” said Leguizamo. “The disappearing middle class, and these billionaires who think they can control our democracies, control our social platforms, control us, and how they separate us and keep us out and go into their little special bubbles. I think it’s a great commentary on the privilege that’s happening in America, and entitlement and people creating an ‘us-versus-them,’ and I love them getting their punishment in this flick.”
Searchlight Pictures will release The Menu in theaters on November 18.