As The menuAs director Mark Mylod’s chilling take on the world of exclusive fine dining raced to its dramatic end, something snapped in my brain. After nearly two hours of being terrified—Ralph Fiennes is cold and chilling as Chef Julian Slowik, a selfish man driven to violence by his obsession with culinary perfection at his restaurant Hawthorne—I burst into uncontrollable laughter. (Note: Major spoilers for the upcoming ending.)
Finally, after torturing his guests and having the woman he sexually harassed stab him in the leg, Chef Julian’s vision becomes painfully funny. As his diners watch in horror, kitchen workers artfully sprinkle the restaurant’s dining area with graham cracker crumbs and various sauces. And then Julian sets the restaurant on fire as the diners turn themselves into human s’mores. Yes, s’mores. They would like put on marshmallows and pour chocolate over their heads, and the whole thing goes up in flames. When I first realized what was happening, I felt like I finally understood what The menu was about. And now I will try to unwrap the twist ending The menu and why it actually somehow actually to work.
Why do the diners in the film do this voluntarily to themselves?
The sheer chaos of this scene – who among us wouldn’t want to see John Leguizamo and Judith Light turn themselves into s’mores – is coupled with the absurdity of the diners almost willingly partaking in their own deaths. Collectively, the diners trapped in Hawthorne never really try to fight back against Chef Julian or flee the island. After a few corny protests at the start of the meal, usually of “do you know who I am?” variety, they accept their fate.
It seems like the characters – all wealthy people who have rarely experienced discomfort in their lives – are just playing along because they just can’t fathom what’s happening to them. They’re automatons that go from one luxurious experience to the next, and Chef Julian’s plot has essentially caused them to falter.
What is the movie trying to say by turning everyone into human s’mores?
After years of serving wealthy, privileged people, Julian would like to get back at them in a particularly humiliating way: and is there anything more humiliating than being forced to prep your body for consumption? After seeing these characters behave in the restaurant and learning their indiscretions outside of it, The menu encourages us to support their demise. While you’re thinking, “Wow, he’s really turning these motherfuckers into s’mores,” you’re also kind of excited to see what happens next. That seems like a pretty obvious consequence of living in a world where a few people can pay $1,000 for dinner 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 imitation of Chef Grant Achatz’s legendary table dessert in Alinea (which doesn’t involve self-immolation, for the record). “When I got to the project, one of the big things I wanted to change about the script was a 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 elements work.”
Okay, but why s’mores and not like a baked Alaska?
This appears to be a decidedly practical choice. It seems much harder to coat people in ice cream and meringue than to simply ask them to put on marshmallow suits and pour chocolates over their heads. Realistically, though, it’s probably a broadcast of food snobs who think s’mores suck.
Does this twist actually work…?
It is definitely unexpected!!! For two hours you really have no idea how this dinner is going to end. There are times when you almost get the feeling that Margot – who has been revealed to be a sex worker and not a member of the upper crust like the rest of the guests – could be the hero and figure out how to save everyone. In a more traditional horror movie, you might expect every diner to be murdered in a way directly related to their bad behavior – perhaps the tech bros are killed by a computer or the philandering politician is insulted by a mistress. But Chef Julian’s decision to host a massive human bonfire feels both appropriately cinematic and appropriately restaurant-like. Doesn’t every chef want to end the evening with a perfect dessert?
What about Margot’s burger?
Before escaping the island on a boat, Margot asks Chef Julian to make her a cheeseburger, allowing the audience to glimpse the human behind the monster. Julian smiles and lets Margot leave. She boards a doggy bag containing half of that cheeseburger, and the last thing 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 does hear a faint clap, much like Chef Julian’s, as she bites into the burger, which could indicate he’s done something sinister with her survival snack.