How The menu, the world’s chilling parody of director Mark Mylod’s unique fine dining, has plummeted towards its dramatic finale, something in my brain snapped. After nearly two hours of being utterly terrified — Ralph Fiennes is cold and chilling as chef Julian Slowik, an egomaniac driven to violence by his obsession with culinary perfection at his Hawthorne restaurant — I began to laugh uncontrollably. (Note: Major spoilers for the upcoming ending.)
Finally, after torturing his guests and letting himself be stabbed in the leg by the woman he sexually harassed, Chef Julian’s vision becomes painfully funny. As his diners watch in horror, the kitchen staff deftly scatter the restaurant’s dining room with graham cracker crumbs and various dips. And then, Julian sets the restaurant on fire as diners turn into human s’mores. Yes, s’mores. They gladly put on marshmallows and pour chocolate on their heads, and everything is on fire. When I first figured out what was going on, I felt like I finally figured out what The menu it was approx. And now, I’ll try to unpack the final twist of The menu and why actually somehow actually works.
Why do the diners in the film willingly do it to themselves?
The sheer chaos of this scene—who among us doesn’t want to see John Leguizamo and Judith Light turn into s’mores—is coupled with the absurdity that the diners are all but willingly participating in their own deaths. Collectively, the diners trapped in Hawthorne never really attempt to fight back against Chef Julian or escape the island. After a few mealy protests at the start of the meal, mostly of “Do you know who I am?” variety, they accept their fate.
It seems that the characters – all wealthy people who have rarely experienced hardships in their lives – are just playing along because they simply can’t figure out what’s happening to them. They’re automatons, bouncing from one luxurious experience to another, and Chef Julian’s storyline has, essentially, caused them problems.
What is the movie trying to say by turning everyone into human s’mores?
After years of serving wealthy and privileged people, Julian would like to take his revenge on them in a particularly humiliating way: and is there anything more humiliating than being forced to prepare one’s body for consumption? After seeing these characters behaving in the restaurant and learning of their indiscretions outside of it, The menu it encourages us to cheer for their demise. While you’re thinking, “Wow, he’s actually turning these fuckers into s’mores,” you’re also a little excited to see what happens next. It seems like a pretty obvious consequence of living in a world where a few people can pay $1,000 to dine at a place like Hawthorne, while countless others wonder if they’ll dine at all.
Where the hell does such an idea come from?
According to Mylod, the dish itself is an emulation of chef Grant Achatz’s legendary dessert table at Alinea (which, for the record, doesn’t involve any self-immolation). “When I joined the project, one of the big things I wanted to change in the script was to have this more operatic ending,” Mylod told Eater. “We wanted to end this meal with a bang, so we did a lot of research on how to make the specifics of the dessert items work.”
Okay, but why s’mores and not like a baked Alaska?
This seems like an explicitly practical choice. It seems much more difficult to shower people in ice cream and meringue than to simply ask them to put on marshmallow robes and pour chocolates over their heads. Realistically, though, it’s probably a parody of food snobs who think s’mores suck.
Does this twist really work?
It sure is unexpected!!! For two full hours, you really have no idea how this dinner is going to turn out. There are points where you almost get the feeling that Margot – who is revealed to be a prostitute and not a member of the high end like the rest of the diners – might be the hero and figure out how to save everyone. In a more traditional horror film, you might expect every diner to be murdered in some way directly related to their bad behavior: perhaps the tech brothers are killed by a computer or the philandering politician is fired by a mistress. But Chef Julian’s decision to host a massive human bonfire feels both appropriately cinematic, and appropriately restaurant-like. Don’t all chefs want to end the night with a perfect dessert?
What’s the matter with Margot’s burger?
Before escaping the island on a boat, Margot has chef Julian make her a cheeseburger, giving the audience a little taste of the human behind the monster. Julian smiles and allows Margot to leave. She boards the boat with a doggy bag containing half of that cheeseburger, and the last we see is Margot taking a big bite of the burger as she watches Hawthorne burn to the ground from a safe distance. But she hears a faint clap just like Chef Julian’s as she bites into the burger, which could indicate she’s done something sinister to her survival snack.