WARNING: This article contains significant spoilers for “The Menu”
Like the final dish in a multi-course meal, the end of a movie can either leave a bad taste in your mouth or send you home feeling nice and full.
“The Menu,” which stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult as a couple that dines at the mercy of a world-renowned chef (Ralph Fiennes), combines both structures: the film unfolds over the length of a single day, each painstakingly-prepared course signaling a new chapter in the story.
Though the guest list is exactly what you’d expect of a private island restaurant that charges more than a thousand bucks per head, the same cannot be said of the meal. With each dish, Chef Slowik lifts a cloche on a new condemnation of the privileged sycophants who have come to feast on his food. What begins as a mockery quickly devolves into a series of violent spectacles, leaving it unclear who – if anyone – will make it out of Hawthorne alive.
When it came to the grand finale, director Mark Mylod decided to turn up the heat. As co-writers Will Tracy and Seith Reiss had originally intended, Margot (Taylor-Joy), the only non-elite of the bunch, challenges Slowik (Fiennes) to a showdown that ends with her ordering a cheeseburger and earning permission to leave the restaurant.
“From the very start, she was always going to outwit him,” Mylod told TheWrap. “It was always the case that she would get out, and that she would use her intuition and empathy [to do so].”
However, Mylod wanted to craft a splashier ending for the other diners than what was written on the page.
Going into the shoot, “It was niggling at me that [the ending] didn’t feel quite grand enough, quite cinematic enough for Chef Slowik’s choice as to how he would go out,” said Mylod. “It felt that he’d want something a little more heightened.”
The inspiration for the “somewhat operatic” finale – in which Slowik transforms the restaurant into a giant s’more and sets it on fire – came from the Netflix docuseries “Chef’s Table.”
“I started working with an image that was stuck in my head from the opening titles, which is a beautiful top shot that [director and executive producer] David Gelb did down on a deconstructed dessert in Grant Achatz’s restaurant Alinea in Chicago,” he explained. “The dessert is basically spread out and smashed and smushed in this very artistic fashion over the entire table top.”
“I started to think, ‘Okay, what if we did that over the entire restaurant?’” he continued. “And all the lovely craft [departments] started jumping in on how we could achieve this.”
The result is something to behold: Hawthorne bursts into flames, toasting everyone locked inside as Margot looks on from a boat, cheeseburger in hand.
“It was actually really tricky, but I loved the result and it felt like a truly unique ending to the film,” added Mylod. “I’m really proud of that.”
The Menu premieres in theaters Nov. 18.