Directed by Mark Mylod, “The Menu” is a dark comedy horror film that keeps one bated for the whole runtime and truly surpasses expectations with regard to the plot. The film’s premise is not complex—a group of hand-picked elite guests arrives on a private island for a dining experience at celebrity chef Julian Slowik’s exclusive restaurant, Hawthorne. It is enjoyable to see where it goes from there with its commentaries on the super-rich, their fancy but vain practices, and an ultimate downfall that is horrific yet satisfying. “The Menu” is certainly an unusual film in some aspects; it is fulfilling to watch and leaves you pondering for long.
‘The Menu’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
A young couple, Tyler and Margot, wait at a pier for a private boat that is supposed to arrive soon, one that is to take them to a remote private island for an extraordinary culinary experience. This boat ride is part of the privilege of being invited to an exclusive fine-dining restaurant named Hawthorne, which charges a ludicrous $1250 per person. Margot is immediately startled by this figure when she first hears it, but her partner is convinced that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The other guests invited also arrived soon: three young tech business investors named Soren, Bryce, and Dave; an elderly businessman named Richard and his wife Anne; a former film actor named George, who is way past his prime, and his assistant and girlfriend Felicity; and a renowned food critic named Lillian Bloom, along with Ted, the editor of the magazine she writes for. Once the boat arrives and the guests are aboard, a welcome dish with oysters and lemon caviar is served. From this very instance, Margot starts to realize that her partner Tyler is almost blindly devotional towards the celebrity chef running the restaurant, Chef Julian Slowik. What she seems to find strange is the fact that the dish is just a warped way of presenting common items in a fancy manner. It is also soon revealed that Margot was not originally on the invited list and had only taken the place of another woman who was supposed to accompany Tyler. Margot is indirectly reminded time and again that she is not supposed to have this experience. Nonetheless, she plays along as the guests arrive on the island and are given a short tour of it on the way to the dining hall. However, little does she, or any of the other guests, know that what they are about to witness inside this hall over the course of the evening is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but one that they did not wish for.
What Is the Reason for Chef Slowik’s Actions? What Is The Meaning In The Film?
As the courses start getting served from the chef’s kitchen onto the dinner tables, it becomes quite evident that this whole event has been organized for certain special motives. When the third course comes along, it includes tortilla bread with personalized laser engravings for each of the guests, reminding them of some incriminating events from their past. Further on, Slowik and his team of chefs bring on full chaos and grimaces, with multiple deaths involved. Chef Julian Slowik himself leads the whole affair with a plot of revenge in mind, so to speak. His professional history was later revealed– he had started work as a burger maker at a fast-food store and then gradually built his reputation. The critic Lillian Bloom was instrumental in this increase in fame for Slowik, as she had extensively written about and supported the man and his work. But his life at present is marred by a very different problem—he has lost touch with the thrill and fun of cooking. What should be, as he feels, a profession of serving enjoyment to people with food that satisfies them had turned into a practice of elite gatekeeping and high-society exclusivity. This seems to be the main force behind all his actions in the film, and for this reason, he selected each of his guests very carefully.
The elderly Richard and his wife Anne were regular customers at his tremendously exclusive restaurant, and yet when the time came, they could not recall any of the dishes they had eaten on their previous visits. To Slowik, this is a clear indication that the people he tries to please do not even take notice of the art that he is creating. He holds an equal amount of grudge against Lillian, too, for having pushed him towards this life, where he has not felt satisfied after serving any customer for many years now. On this private island, he now commands what seems to be no less than an army of cooks and helpers who are ready to carry out anything that he orders. There is also a very evident feeling of Slowik’s ego being a crucial aspect behind his actions, for the man is also part of the culinary elitism that he so much hates. The very first victim of him at Hawthorne on this particular evening was the angel investor in his restaurant, who had shown the audacity of questioning his menu and food choices and asking for substitutions, possibly letting his own guests visit the restaurant out of turn. Not only does Slowik drown this investor into the sea, but this also seems to be the reason for having invited the three young tech investors. Together with this angel investor, Soren, Bryce, and Dave had stolen funds by creating invoices with fake charges. Other than this, there does not seem to be a reason for Slowik to have invited these three, except for the fact that they are all arrogant and snobbish individuals who are cocky about their position in life.
The reason for the former film actor George Diaz to be present is that, according to chef Slowik, the man had sold off his art for the sake of money. George’s iconic films, which others seem to remember with a bit of positive memory, were works that made Slowik understand how the actor was working only to earn big money. Such negligence toward art was something that he did not wish to tolerate, and George Diaz was a fine example of it. Other than the negatives that Slowik sees and recognizes in his guests, there are other vices in each of them too. George seems to forcefully keep his assistant and lover, Felicity, employed under him, despite the woman telling him multiple times that she wants to leave him and try something else. The food critic Lillian had single-handedly shut down multiple restaurants in the past, including those run by genuinely talented people, only through her personal prejudices and bad reviews for them. The editor of her magazine at present, Ted, happily sang along to her tunes despite knowing about her harsh bias. The three tech investors are like the usual boys’ club members, having little respect or understanding for anyone else. Richard, the billionaire businessman, was tremendously lecherous, even at such an old age, and would even appoint sex workers to roleplay as his daughter figure. His wife, Anne, perhaps knew all of it, or at least guessed what was up, but decided to stay quiet and be the ideal wife, always standing in support of her husband. Tyler was so much in admiration of Slowik’s work that despite knowing that this dinner invitation was basically an invitation towards death, he had turned up for the event. Not only that, but he had paid Margot money to accompany him because his girlfriend (who was originally supposed to be at the party) had broken up with him in the recent past.
Mention also must be made of the individuals among Slowik’s crew who are equally blind in their devotion toward the celebrity chef. First is Jeremy Louden, who staunchly believes all the harsh criticism that Slowik has for him and seems to believe that he will never achieve greatness. And so, to somehow reach this eternal position, he makes himself part of Slowik’s dinner plan and shoots himself dead in front of the guests as part of the show. Next is Katherine Keller, who had been romantically approached by Slowik a couple years ago, which she turned down. Although Katherine was not fired from her job, her boss did everything in his power to make her life difficult. Instead of any normal person, though, Katherine was unable to put aside her professional admiration for the man and has remained in his restaurant since then. Now, she reveals she was the one to have proposed the idea of keeping death as a part of the menu, and as part of the show, she stabs Slowik in his leg as well. Another worker on his team, Dale, pretends to be a coast guard officer when a guest calls for help, and he partakes in a show of fake arresting the chef as well before revealing his true identity.
The only exception to all the individuals mentioned above, guest and worker alike, is Margot, who, towards the end, reveals that her real name is actually Erin. The young woman has stood out from the crowd since the very beginning, and Slowik, too, has taken notice of her. She is the first to call out his and the restaurant’s pretensions of turning food into something unnecessarily fancy. In reality, as she reveals later, the woman is a sex worker who works with rich clients. She is the one who was hired by Richard to roleplay being his daughter, and she has now also been hired by Tyler, who had brought her along to this death party. She is also the only one making active attempts to escape the place once the whole idea of the chef is clear to her. It is possible to ask the question of why none of the other guests tried any plan of escape, and the answer is most probably that they are too rich to think that way. Being a direct dig at the upper-class super-rich of society, “The Menu” often comes up with ways to highlight their follies, and this is the greatest instance of it. The rich only know one solution to all problems—throwing money at them. However, their money is of no use in this private island-turned-restaurant, for Slowik has no need for it. The only attempts at escape that the guests make are to get away by paying—the tech investors offer any amount of money to walk away from the dinner; Richard talks of calling in a private helicopter to take him and his wife away from the island since there is no boat. The only exception, once again, is Margot, as she sneaks into the chef’s private house and tries to find any incriminating evidence against the man. She is intercepted by Slowik’s right-hand lady, Elsa, who feels insecure that Margot will take away her place in the Hawthorne someday. Margot kills Elsa and then calls for outside help via a radio she finds inside the house, not yet aware that the responding coast guard would also be a man from Slowik’s team. Slowik himself also understands that Margot is different from all his other guests, which is why he offers to make her part of his plans. The outcome would still be the same, he points out, and Margot would still die at the end, but the only difference would be that she would be on the team of chefs and servers when it happened.
Margot agrees to this but keeps working on her own escape in the meantime. When she does finally carve out a means of escape from the place, it is out of sheer intelligence. No matter how extreme chef Slowik went with his menu throughout the evening, none of the guests seemed to question his professional position. No matter what was going on, the followers of culinary elitism could not disrespect the almost godlike figure that Julian Slowik was to them. Margot completely disregards this; she breaks through the pretensions of high-society erudite behavior and, in the process, manages to escape. After having earlier seen through the pretensions of the restaurant, she now calls them out and tells Slowik to take the food served to her back to the kitchen because she did not like it. Instead, she tells him to prepare a classic American hamburger, which she learns was his specialty way back in the day and takes a bite of it when it arrives. Margot’s satisfied face from that one bite seems to make Slowik happy, even for the briefest moments, and the woman then asks for the burger to be packed up so that she can take it away. This talking and behaving like one would at a normal restaurant seems to do the work, as a helpless bind seems to work over Slowik, and he cannot refuse her demands. The burger is packed up, and Margot is allowed to leave the dining hall and the island.
‘The Menu’ Ending Explained: What Happens To Margot, Tyler And The Other Guests At The End?
Margot reaches the beach on the island and finds a small motorboat, which she uses to get away from the island. In the meanwhile, Slowik’s dark dinner party still continues with the guests he still has left. Tyler, the blind devotee of the celebrity chef, was earlier asked by the man to cook up an item for him. Tyler does so nervously, as he believes himself to be a chef as well, but when he presents his dish to Slowik, the latter ridicules it and vehemently criticizes Tyler. Unable to take such criticism from the man he always looked up to, Tyler hangs himself to death. With the rest of the guests now still in the dining hall, Slowik prepares his last dish—a dessert item of s’mores. Instead of any usual rendition of it, the chef and his team prepare the exact dish on a large scale, making the guests wear marshmallows on their bodies and chocolate hats on their heads. He then sets the entire place on fire as an act of roasting the marshmallows, and all the guests go up in flames. The chef himself and his entire team also set themselves on fire, and the whole restaurant explodes within a short time. Margot’s boat seems to have run out of fuel after some time on her journey, and she now looks at the explosion that appears on the island. Taking out the hamburger she had packed away, Margot takes a bite into it and wipes her mouth with a copy of the evening’s menu that was part of the gift bag that was also given to her.
It is intentionally left unclear about what ultimately happens to Margot, for her boat is now stuck in the middle of the sea. The important fact is that she has successfully escaped the death trap island, and that too by dismissing Julian Slowik’s expertise. It is very possible to believe that Slowik knew she would escape from the very beginning, but he also enjoyed the fact that there was this individual ready to call him out and outright challenge his reputation. Besides, Margot is not really part of the group that Slowik wants to make his plan against, and he also does not seem to mind that she gets away. His whole idea, it seems, was to break down the elite, high-society individuals who had pushed for food to be such an exclusive affair. Slowik’s execution of it, in true dark comedy fashion, is to turn these men and women into life-sized s’mores and cook them to death.