The Menu screenwriter Will Tracy reveals the way that a real high-end restaurant experience inspired the idea for the new Ralph Feinnes thriller.
One of the screenwriters of The Menu has described a real-life experience that helped him come up with the idea for the film. The film, which was released in theaters on November 18, 2022 and is now available on HBO Max, stars Anya Taylor-Joy as Margot, a young woman who is invited to an exclusive restaurant on a private island by Tyler (Nicholas Hoult). The restaurant is run by the reclusive chef Julian Solwik (Ralph Fiennes), who is known for his theatrical presentation, which is why the disturbing and possibly violent nature of this evening’s meal isn’t noticed by the restaurant’s patrons until it is much too late.
Recently, Bon Appétit ran an interview with the screenwriters behind The Menu, Will Tracy (of the HBO hit Succession) and his former The Onion co-worker Seth Reiss. During the conversation, Tracy revealed that the inspiration for the film came from an actual high-end restaurant he visited on a remote Norwegian island. He described the food-as-storytelling experience as claustrophobic, saying that patrons are “held hostage” for hours. Read his full quote below:
[The restaurant was not Fäviken, but like Fäviken.] There’s something relentless about all of these tasting menus. You can’t leave. You’re being held hostage by a story which they’re telling for hours.
At its heart, the story of The Menu is about the clash between commerce and art. Fiennes’ character is chafing against the fact that his art has become more of a product for the upper class to use as a status symbol rather than an expression of his purest self, a feeling that can be transcribed across many other art forms. However, the fact that the film is specifically set in the world of food culture is important to its sense of humor as well as the way it builds dread in the viewer.
Even if one’s experience with fancy restaurants is limited, most are familiar enough with the concept to be aware of the way that portion sizes are as small as the list of expensive ingredients is long. This sometimes intentionally alienating presentation is perfectly encapsulated the now iconic line “we gel,” which is spoken by Hong Chau in the trailer for The Menu. Margot’s discomfort in such a setting allows her to be an entry point for the viewer, which means that their hackles will be raised along with hers as she notices a variety of off-putting details during the meal.
The Menu perfectly utilizes that off-kilter sense that this type of restaurant would automatically evoke in someone who is unused to them. However, it also draws humor from the characters who feel perfectly comfortable at Chef Julian’s restaurant, showcasing the way they can sometimes bend over backward to artistically justify something they don’t entirely understand. By the end of the film, Tracy and Reiss were able to incorporate many different elements of that culture into a slow-boil thriller that has already received awards attention with two Golden Globe nominations.
More: Anya Taylor-Joy’s Off-Script The Menu Scene Fixed An Old Movie Problem
Source: Bon Appétit