Agatha Christie, not surprisingly, created the template. And
Because there are still millions of people unfamiliar with And
obscure. And Then There Were None has
movies—Glass Onion and The Menu—are
Glass Onion, written and directed by Johnson, is subtitled "A Knives Out Mystery,"
blockbuster. Glass Onion doubles
in Knives Out, while
The beginning of Glass Onion has
The four arrive on the island to find two surprises. The first is Blanc,
whom none including Bron has met before. Blanc insists he received an
invitation, but Bron denies sending him one. The second is Cassandra
"Andi" Brand (Janelle Monae), Bron's former business partner, whom Bron
dumped from the company with the assistance of Lionel, Claire, Birdie and
Duke. Bron did send her an invitation, but neither he nor the others
expected her to accept.
As Blanc quickly discovers, all the guests except himself have good reason
to want Bron dead. He also senses that something isn't quite right about
Bron, starting with his frequent malaprops (i.e. "predefinite" for "pre
From there, it is best to let viewers discover the surprises of Glass Onion for themselves. Those surprises come thick and fast, involving such
disparate elements as an experimental hydrogen-based fuel, a paper
napkin, a food allergy, and the Mona Lisa. Steve Yedlin, Johnson's usual
photographer, captures the beauty of the Greek islands and the decadence
of Bron's lifestyle with equal assurance. He also does justice to Johnson's
incendiary finale, which combines literal pyrotechnics with a deeply
satisfying act of retribution. Meanwhile, if you see similarities between
Bron and certain real-life billionaires, I'm sure Johnson won't mind.
The ensemble cast could not be more delightful, and includes many cameos
which have already been much discussed in Glass Onion's reviews and
publicity. I will mention only two: Stephen Sondheim and Angela
Lansbury, in their last film appearances, as two of Blanc's fellow online
gamers. (They chide him for his lack of skill.) Gamesmanship is the key to Glass Onion, even more than for Knives Out. It's no surprise that Johnson,
a great believer in music as a plot device, plays over the final credits the
Beatles' "Glass Onion," which gently mocks Beatles fans who found hidden
meanings in John and Paul's lyrics. The song is key to understanding the
film's central metaphor, as Blanc lays it out: a glass onion seems to have
multiple layers of complications, but in the end the true meaning was
always in plain sight.
The comedy is much darker in The Menu, which makes perfect sense when
you realize that the credits of director Mylod and screenwriters Seth Reiss
and Will Tracy include Succession, Entourage, The Onion, and Last Week
Tonight with John Oliver. All of these programs specialize in the
skewering of human vanity, brutality and greed, especially as practiced by
those whom fate has given far more wealth than they deserve.
According to the Internet Movie Database, Tracy got the idea for The Menu after dining with his new bride in an island restaurant off the coast of
Norway. Tracy also thought of Noma, the experimental epicurean
restaurant in Copenhagen that recently announced its closure. "Noma and
the Fizzle of Too-Fine Dining," a Jan. 10, 2023 New York Times article by
Frank Bruni, helps us understand the malaise The Menu satirizes. About
Noma and similar high-end restaurants, Bruni asks, "Are they about so
many things beyond the fundamentals of dining—things like ingenuity,
philosophy, vanity, eccentricity—that they've ceased to be restaurants in
any conventional and sustainable sense?"
The Menu has a similar insight at its core and takes it to its logical, if
bloody, extreme. The film begins with Tyler (Nicholas Hoult) and
Margot (Anya Taylor-Joy), a young couple waiting for the boat to take
them to Hawthorn, the exclusive island restaurant run by celebrity chef
Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Margot lights a cigarette, to Tyler's disgust;
he lectures her about the tobacco killing her taste buds. Their fellow diners
board the boat with them, including vindictive food critic Lillian Bloom
(Janet McTeer); smug millionaires Richard and Anne Leibrandt
(Reed Birney, Judith Light); and fading movie star George Diaz (John
The diners arrive on the island, greeted by maître d' Elsa (Hong Chau). If
Elsa is disconcerted that Margot's name is not on the guest list, Margot is
appalled by the guided tour of the property. Elsa speaks proudly of the
island-grown vegetables and island-cured meats, but what Margot notices
is the robotic regimentation of the staff—more like brainwashed North
Korean prisoners than restaurant workers.
Margot's opinion of Hawthorn is not improved by Julian's greeting of the
guests. He makes a speech of welcome that is anything but welcoming; he
exhorts them not to eat, but to taste. Margot finds this absurd, but Tyler,
Julian's total fanboy, is enthralled. Once again lecturing Margot, he says
that musicians, athletes, painters are nothing compared with chefs, who
deal with the basic materials of life. "And death!" he adds with a flourish.
Julian is famous for his themed menus, the subjects of which are not
apparent until the meal is over. He gives the guests a mini-lecture before
each course, each successively more dire than the last. By the third course,
the diners have a clue that they aren't going to like the theme of this
dinner—except, again, for Tyler. When the fourth course arrives…
Julian, meanwhile, is agitated by Margot; her very presence is ruining his
theme. "Who are you?" he asks her. Before long, she shows him.
The Menu is a mordant satire that uses Julian's restaurant as a metaphor
for the eternal malaise engendered by wealth and snobbery. Margot
denounces Julian toward the end, noting that he's forgotten the purpose of
a restaurant—to feed people. "You cook with obsession, but not with love!"
she declares, indicting his staff and his customers along with him. In his
loveless obsession, Julian has created a Jonestown-style cult. He is aided
and abetted by his workers, who have become automatons in his service,
and his customers, who sheepishly obey his whims even as they
condescend to him. It is a vicious circle that has repeated itself in countless
ways and in countless places throughout recorded history. It takes a
person outside the cult to reveal it for what it is.
The cast is superb, especially the three leads. Fiennes' Julian exudes a
charismatic, twinkling menace—a cross between Lord Voldemort and The
Grand Budapest Hotel's Gustave H. As Tyler, Hoult is convincing as a
weaselly know-it-all who knows more about Julian's plans than he lets on,
and whom Julian singles out for humiliation. Anya Taylor-Joy, who gets
more impressive with each new role, is the standout as Margot, the movie's
voice of reason. How her powers of reasoning affect the film's ending is for
you to discover.