‘The Menu’ serves audiences a dark comedy with plenty of surprises

The Menu
Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult star in ‘The Menu.’
Eric Zachanowich / 20th Century Studios

By María Estévez, MWN

Anya Taylor-Joy likes to choose characters in extraordinary circumstances as she did this year in ‘The Northman’ and now in her latest movie, ‘The Menu,’ where she finds herself caught up at a dangerous destination restaurant that isn’t necessarily what it seems.

In ‘The Menu,’ young couple Margot (Taylor-Joy) and Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) travel to a remote island to eat at Hawthorne, an exclusive restaurant run by celebrity chef Julian Slowik, who has prepared a lavish molecular gastronomy menu where food is treated as conceptual art, although his approach to cuisine has some shocking surprises for the wealthy guests.

Metro recently chatted with the young actress to learn more. 

Is this a story against privilege?

I was trying to channel privilege ’cause I don’t understand that. All we initially know about my character is that she couldn’t care less about this fancy-pants food and that she’s not supposed to be there. But it’s a fun game that I play. And with ‘The Menu’ on every page that I turned, I had no idea that that was going to happen. And I just thought, ‘O.K., this is exciting.’ This is original. It’s so funny, it’s so dark. And currently, in my life, I’m just trying to put myself in absolutely unique situations. And I think, having seen the film, you can agree there are quite a few terribly unique experiences that all of us go through.

As an audience, we sort of understand that the chef’s taken a particular interest in her and that leads to a lot of wonderful exchanges between you and Ralph Fiennes. Can you talk about working with him on those scenes?

He’s the most phenomenal actor, but the thing that’s interesting is he’s so talented that whatever he wants to transmute on screen, that will happen. So of course, as an audience member, you will feel this formidable presence and this fear, whenever he’s there. Maybe it was our characters, maybe it’s how we both approached acting. All of our scenes together felt so warm and intimate even when we were being quite rude to each other, when the stakes were pretty high. I always just felt really comfortable with him and I felt like I had a very generous dance partner and that we were both enjoying that bizarre intimacy. We had a great time together. 

What about Nicholas Hoult, the one who takes you to dinner?

Well, his preparation was sensational. He researched his character eating after every take we did. I’ve never seen someone eating so much. He was the foodie of the movie and had to devour every plate, every take. And he did it. He committed to it, almost to the point where sometimes I was a bit worried about his health. You can’t stuff that much bread in your mouth all day long and be okay. But yes, I didn’t get to eat that much in the movie, so I was always very much looking forward to lunch because it’s quite torturous to be sat in front of delicious-looking food and not eat it.

The movie is almost entirely chronological. How did that affect the performances of the actors? 

I think it helped us immensely because there’s a particular turning point in the film where things start to get dramatically darker. And up until that point, we’d all been having quite, nice and odd dinner party. And then the way that this scene was shot was so visceral, I think it kind of shocked all of us when it happened. That led us down to the new tone of the film. Less of the laughs, more of the gasps really. So I think it really helped us carry that through.

Margot is a very interesting character. Does she change throughout the film?

– Yeah. Because there are elements to this – without giving any spoilers away – where it’s almost a performance within a performance, and that enigmatic quality that she has, you peel it away. And I was almost playing with two different people at times. And I think having that inner world for her was very helpful to me because then I could decide when the facade went up and when it dropped and at what moments I could do that.

This is a movie where all the actors are present during most of the shooting. How was that experience?

It was something that Mark (Director Mark Mylod) wanted. All of us had to improvise as the characters the whole time because we didn’t know whether we were on camera or not. You didn’t know if the camera was going to come and find you. And that was something that he wanted to do creatively that I think we all really relished. However, in moments when we could step off, all of us chose not to because we have a front-row seat to brilliant actors performing. And so we all just stayed, and we would clap after takes, and it was just an incredibly supportive environment.

The Menu‘ is now showing in theaters.