January 9th, 2023

The Menu: As I thought about watching this, I was thinking that this could be a good companion piece to Glass Onion as a who-dunnit, murder mystery. I knew very little about, but had seen a couple of the commercials so it was not much to go on. The premise is simple enough, a world reknowned chef, played by Ralph Fiennes, invites an exclusive number of guest to his remote island restuarant that is extremely expensive. Once at the restaurant, he and his staff prepare, serve and provide commentary on the course that the guests are about to eat. Much like Glass Onion, you don’t know the make up and background of those that were invited. We are initially introduced to Tyler, played by Nicholas Hoult and his date Margot, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. She, much like Emma Stone, has an odd face where it appears as though her eyes are far too far apart.

We learn as they rush to get to the boat and then check in, that Margot was not an invited guest. She was a reaplcement guest for Tyler. Tyler is enamoured with Chef Slovik, being at the pinnacle of the culinary game which he reveres. He has watched all the shows about cooking like Chef’s Table and knows all the insider lingo. The story progresses and introduces us to more of the guests, including a celebrity with his date, three Wall Street-like dudes and an older couple. Seems husband might actually know Margot. The plot thickens.

For me, at the conclusion I thought to myself, “is this it?” As a satire/dark comedy it is over the top, as I suppose that it needs to be. The social commentary about today, with the general fixation on these chefs, like Gordon Ramsey or Guy Fieri, who have turned their work into celebrity and restaurants is interesting. Also is the idea that every one of us can become reviewers of their craft, their art, which requires more than just the ability to amass a number of well known ingrediants. In many ways, what I do here is the same thing; I can’t make a movie, but I have eyes and I can make commentary on the craft of a director and the team that put images on celluloid and show it to the public. My take on food is that I don’t need to eat art. I would prefer to feel satisfied and enjoy what I taste. I want to leave a restaurant feeling satisfied, and not needing to fill myself up with a burger when it’s done. Not everyone shares in my attitude clearly. Many of those types, including the food critic, is explored in more detail. Each course gets to be a little more over the top. Of course it becomes ridiculous like satire can become. This is where it departs too from Glass Onion. A statement is made about the evening and how it will unfold which surprises the guests, as it rightfully should. In many ways it reminds me of my reaction in Banshees of Inisherin with Colm’s response in dealing with Padraic’s actions. Banshees is also set on an island, just like Glass Onion. In the end, I thought that it was ridiculous. Fiennes plays creepy, reserved with an inner turmoil/anger very well. He has his own agenda, but the end result isn’t satisfying for me.

Triangle of Sadness: For most viewers, the only recognizable star in this movie is Woody Harrelson. This is an interesting character study of a relationship, and particularly the man in the relationship (Carl, played by Harris Dickinson) along with a more general exploration about the nature of mankind. Separated into chapters, in the same way as The Menu is, there are two young pretty people, we should say that as they are both models, and there is an in depth discussion about the picking up of the cheque from a restaurant. Carl’s girlfriend is named Yaya apparently makes more money than Carl does but simply says a distracted “thanks” as she ignores the fact that the bill arrives to the table. In the conclusion of the chat, Carl says that he wants to avoid becoming stereotypical roles in a relationship and wants to be “partners and best friends”.

Carl and Yaya head onto a Yacht, with numerous other passengers. They are “influencers” and were offered this cruise for free in return for social media exposure. They interact with other passengers. They are part of a privileged group on board, much in the same way as the guests in The Menu. There are guests and there are staff who are meant to “do whatever the guests” would like them to do. The staff of course are looking for tips in exchange for their devoted services. Class is definitely an aspect of the cruise. The Captain is played by Woody Harrelson, and he isn’t exactly the typical Captain. He is generally drunk, and is difficult to raise from his room by the staff. There is a Captain’s dinner, although it is delayed because one of the passengers has decided that the staff each deserve to have a swim in the ocean. And what the passengers want, the staff complies, no matter the disruption to the scheduled events for everyone.

There are some genuinely funny moments in this movie. Some might be unintentional, but I laughed anyway. Likely my warped sense of humour but suffice it to say that the cruise ends in a fashion that is quite unexpected. The Captain has drunkenly debated socialist/communist dogma contrary to capitalism. The Captain is a socialist, believing that the rich should pay their fair share of taxes while the passenger is a rich man who has built himself up from literally selling shit/manure. The third act sees the dynamic of the group turned upside down. The existing class structure is changed based upon the skills that each individual brings to the group. No longer is wealth the measuring stick for power and decision making. This circles back to the earlier discussion with Carl and Yaya who are now adjusting to the updated hierarchy in the group. The role reversal is fun to see as it plays itself out. Carl and Yaya don’t exactly support one another in the equal partnership that Carl was earlier on contemplating. Carl’s actions belie his views and he speaks out of two sides of his face.

I liked this movie. I laughed, it made me think, and there were some situations that were unexpected. Unlike The Menu which didn’t resonate with me as well, I was able to be entertained with the observations of mankind, but also about gender roles. How in a group where skills dictate your worth, the person who has those skills can take advantage of those that are beneficiaries of the services. When that updated hierarchy is challenged in some way, people act in ways that you as the viewer, can sadly anticipate. Needless to say, however much even those who profess to be looking out for the interests of all collectively, they can still be quite selfish in protecting their own particular station in the class system. Even though there are similarities between these two movies this week, and I do think that they are good companion pieces, I would recommend Triangle of Sadness before The Menu.