Prompt Images

The bone marrow is served warm but the blood is most definitely cold.

In 2022’s The Menu, directed by Mark Mylod, viewers are invited to witness our protagonist as a performative culinary master. Ralph Fiennes plays an executive chef with a just-beneath-the-surface bubbling rage that remains consistent along the continuum from genius to madman. Fiennes amps up the “weird quotient” with each inventive course in “event dining” at his uber-exclusive 4 Star MICHELIN restaurant on its own island. He evolves from haughty artist to a chef off his meds. The narrow guardrails on Chef’s passion are held taut by Fiennes’s mastery of the role, no emotional meandering here.

The writing is terse and smart (“We have reached the base camp of Mt. Bullshit,” uttered early on by our unwitting heroine). The sets evoke the understated elegance of the restaurant. A googol of actors is letter perfect portraying either staff or guest. The bro buds are predictably boorish, but Hong Chau’s icy cold, drill-sergeant tough, Asian maître d’ runs away with this film’s Best Supporting Actress role. Every syllable she utters, and every subtle sneer directed at guests she holds in contempt, drips with venom as thinly veiled as the amuse bouche’s flavor profiles. That she is a member of a cult has been well-established earlier in the movie when one of several key inflection points takes us from “wow, what a menu,” to “what the fuck just happened?”

The film’s satirical slant clarifies over the final third of the movie, the finale a coup de grâce (pardon the tautology). The unaware viewer, however, is otherwise immersed in the ever-amplifying blood and discomfort of our dining guests and Fiennes’s magnetism, who, ever the loving son, is also hosting his mother tonight. As the movie’s macabre idiosyncrasies multiply, the evil bubbles through but fails to pierce the incredulity of it all. Why do we not believe it? What is the missing ingredient? The psychological tension is incongruent with the absurdity of it all. We have cognitive dissonance. The movie’s attempts at genius are testing us. (Though, Dear Reader, it is your decision to make.)

And then we are made aware. Fiennes’ portrayal of unappreciated artiste ratchets up toward comedic madman before careening full speed into “Cult Leader.” And what’s left when the cult fatally consumes all of its members and prisoners (and Dear Leader himself)? The inevitable conflagration is witnessed by our heroine, Margo/Erin from Nebraska/Massachusetts, who looks on like post-apocalyptic Americans will ten, 50, 100 years from now at all the lethal absurdity while chomping on her delicious leftovers—boxed up to go during a tense transactional exchange—of the only dish Chef-before-he-was-Chef had ever prepared in happiness and self-fulfillment; the classic cheeseburger made as Hamburger Howie’s Employee of the Month.

The Menu, aka, The Cult.



Dan Farkas

Dr. Daniel H. Farkas is a molecular pathologist who has published extensively and spoken on the topic internationally. Dan Farkas, on the other hand, is an itinerant New Yorker living just outside The D. His joys in life come from creative writing, photography, the music of his youth, his wife and kids, and sometimes the NY Rangers. #LGM

learn more
Share this story
About The Prompt
A sweet, sweet collective of writers, artists, podcasters, and other creatives. Sound like fun?
Learn more