Like the restaurant that portrays, The menu serves multiple themes and tones as dishes of sorts throughout the film. Sometimes, The menu is a black comedy commenting on class anxiety and capitalist greed. At other points, the film incorporates horror and drama overtones to keep the audience guessing, especially towards the end of the film. Director Mark Mylod cited the different tones and issues of The menu as reasons to jump on board.
“I think one of the things that drew us all to the project was that delightful medley of tones that… like Anya [Taylor-Joy] he said, “That’s a pretty small target to hit.” But we were all drawn to how specific it was,” Mylod said at a press conference. “And then I think, for me, it was the few days or week that we spent doing our version of rehearsals, which was basically sitting down together or in smaller groups in a room and just talk about issues that interested us in the script and our story and about our characters.And in doing so, maybe it was less about what we were actually saying and more about us all tuning in by osmosis, perhaps unconsciously, to get to the same level.
The menu follows a couple (Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) who travel to an island in the Pacific Northwest to dine at an upscale restaurant with celebrity chef Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Filled with rich, spoiled, and obnoxious guests, the restaurant becomes a house of horrors as tension builds with each new dish. Central to the film is Fiennes, someone Taylor-Joy sings praises of during the press conference.
“Oh, what can I say about Ralph? He is the most phenomenal actor. But what’s interesting is that he’s so talented that whatever he wants to transmute on screen, it’s going to happen. So obviously, as an audience member, you’re going to feel this formidable presence and this fear whenever he’s there,” Taylor-Joy said. “Maybe it was our characters, maybe it’s the way we both approach acting. All of our scenes together felt so warm and intimate even when we were quite rude to each other when the stakes were pretty high. I always felt really comfortable with him and felt like I had a very generous dance partner and that we were both enjoying that bizarre intimacy. We had a lot of fun together.”
Directed by Mylod based on a screenplay by 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 as perfect as those elements that are playing out in today’s society.
“Yes, I love the political and social commentary in this film because I feel like it’s tapping into something that’s happening, especially in America, maybe even around the world,” Leguizamo said. “The vanishing 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 get into their own special little bubbles. I think it’s a great commentary on privilege that’s happening in America, and the law and the people that create an us versus them, and I love that they get punished in this movie.
Searchlight Pictures will be out The menu in theaters November 18.