Satire, comedy, and horror are all on “The Menu” (2022)


Searchlight Pictures

Actress Anya Taylor Joy as lead character Margot Mills in The Menu (2022).

Sophia Prichard, Sr. Editor

The following article contains spoilers for The Menu (2022).

The genres of horror and comedy have spent their existence in Hollywood almost melded together, often a symptom of the hilarity of tragedy. Some cite the concept of coping with the terrifying by laughing at the pain. It is because of this entanglement that the world has films like The Menu. Starring Anya Taylor Joy, Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, and directed by Mark Mylod (Succession, Game of Thrones, Shameless), the film uses the vehicle of dark humor to delve into a darker plot. 

The Menu follows couple Margot (Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Hoult), along with an eccentric cast of characters, as they attend an exclusive night of dining by celebrity chef, Slowik (Fiennes), on an isolated island. Throughout the night it becomes more and more apparent that Slowik has planned the murder of each attendee, after growing to hate the world of culinary arts that he has been subjected to. The resentment he holds for the wealthy elites, who have forced him to create that which he does not love, is interrupted by Margot’s presence. Her status as a lower class individual does not fit in his plan, and he allows her to see behind the curtain. When Slowik reveals his plan, which ends in the entirety of the island dead, she begins to plot her escape. 

The final act unravels the supposed elevation of Slowik’s meal, and the final dish served is Margot’s requested cheeseburger. The core of the film is the corruption of art by wealth. In an effort to be thought of as sophisticated, Tyler trips over himself and makes a mockery of himself. In an effort to appease the upper echelon, Slowik has tried so hard to innovate and make the best food, despite its idiocy. They create food that is no longer real and authentic to what the masses want. The courses in The Menu are forcibly high art, something to be admired more than eaten. Even at the beginning of the film, Slowik says that the guests should not “eat”. However, by the end it’s obvious that he more so means to not be a consumer. Do not simply take. 

Other wealth satires of 2022, like Glass Onion or White Lotus show the darker truth that the wealthy rarely face consequences, but The Menu is clear in its finale. Consumption consumes us all. Instead of simply being biting, the winner of the evening is Margot, not her boyfriend, not even Slowik. Because she remains uncorrupted, because she shows that she alone is worthy of escape.

The film is director Mark Mylod’s first “big” film but not his first directorial work. The Menu is reflective of not only Mylod’s struggle with art, but also screenwriters Seth Reiss and Will Tracy’s. Each comes from a background of excellence, from being a head writer for The Onion, to directing one of the most popular TV series of all time, Game of Thrones. Knowing this, the pressure felt by Slowik to be better, to achieve higher, to create something dripping with meaning despite being hollow seems like an even deeper cut. All of the writers and director’s former works are well-known to be astounding, to push boundaries. But to make that level of art requires sacrifice, to a practically satirical level. The drive to do something great, to be groundbreaking for the upper classes, only to let down the masses. To make something amazing, just to be empty inside. It’s laughable, like you, yourself are the joke. Like your tragic self-sacrifice is the comedy. Opposite ends of the spectrum of human emotion clashing to form the ultimate menu.