‘The Menu’: an elegant gastronomic nightmare in the form of a brutal satire

‘The Menu’ , a proposal produced by Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, is released in theaters, after collaborating on their triumphant ‘Succession’, which delves into the terrain of thrillers and horror films while continuing to use the genre as a perverse variation of the most corrosive comedy to direct their shots at neoliberalism in its very different forms, and make a kind of horror thriller around the world of luxury restoration.

The world of cooking is no stranger to entertainment in recent years, after the triumph of masterchef and gastronomic culture as something more widespread in all social strata , the possibility of eating great dishes for not so much money, the extension of restaurants luxury and those that are not but offer a register very different from the traditional one, mixing and fusing new dishes within reach of the pocket of the lower-middle-class worker.

Perhaps for this reason, cooking shows have proliferated, in the style of Masterchef, and the cinema has echoed this “democratization” of experimental preparation, from the now distant ‘Ratatuille’ (2007) to the series by Isabel Coixet ‘Foodie Love’, to those who are most aware of the stress between the stoves of ‘Hierve’ (2020) or ‘The Bear’ (2022). For this reason, it is not surprising that this brutal, almost theatrical horror gastrosatire that shoots critics, clients and almost all art aimed at the elites with macabre humor has arrived.

The great scam of the foodie world

Almost like a culinary perversion of ‘The invitation’ (2015), we have a group of diverse diners, which we follow from the perspective of a great Anya Taylor-Joy , while the script plays with thriller, black comedy and murder terror. mystery, a modern ‘ To kill or not to kill, this is the problem ‘ (1973), with the idea of ​​revenge brought to the world of conceptual cooking. So it’s not that different in essence to some classic British horror movies, the difference being that this climax would make Ari Aster happy.

The best asset of ‘The Menu’ is that it never takes itself too seriously, but it is also caustic in its drawing of veiled class exploitation through an imposing Ralph Fiennes, who embroiders an enigmatic and precise, a sinister caricature of the great chefs whose position of authority in front of the diners highlights the real irony of the relationship of haute cuisine customers with those who are, after all, the service.

An artificial dynamic that exposes that sometimes there is not much difference between the exploiters disguised as friendly users with a well-disposed wallet and the proletarians who have come to more in very different ways, who are nothing more than aspiring rich, that is, passionate about the feeling, bought for a couple of hours, of being someone, of having access and being treated in the same way as the more traditional wealthy customer. So much so, that ‘The Menu’ poses something very radical, reducing the culinary experience to a social fact, something potential customers experience because they can, not because they enjoy the food.

In that aspect, the film is brilliant at composing a progressive and unhurried experience , not only in terms of building tension, but also in terms of its speech. The sins of the diners are unfolding anecdotally, creating confusion and fear among them, but without causing panic, the chef never shows his cards at all and, despite everything getting weird, he manages to keep his guests calm as in a surreal performance that squanders verisimilitude in favor of a Bunuelian status quo.

The artifice of exclusivity

His plan, and at the same time the script, in short, gradually exposes the nonsense of the very act of serving others, raising dilemmas about the value of what is bought, the absurdity of purchasing power in the face of such a refined art that only those who access a certain economic category can taste. The question he poses is whether this art makes sense in a world where those who can afford it are not always those who have the tools to appreciate its complexities, reducing the cultural act to consumerism by wilder disposition.

On the one hand, it tries to equate the creator with the receiver, trying to reach a common point of shared language that is rarely possible, due to the very essence of the work of a chef, always moving vertically, with no possible shortcuts in the result. , a talent that requires effort very separate from lineage, while those who will have the key to his work will rarely be the same ones who have the palate to appreciate it as it deserves.

An intelligent dilemma that sounds more spectacular than what ‘The menu’ manages to show on the screen, an agile ode to the beauty inherent in a “pretentious” dish and at the same time a plea that questions its very existence. A reflection without sermons, with black corners as hell and without convenient omissions when it comes to examining all the possible ideological microcosm and imposture that is generated during a simple dinner in a luxury restaurant .