Monday, January 13, 2020

Knives Out

I had a fine time watching this movie – sort of like an Hercule Poirot mystery, only with R-rated language and a cast speaking mostly in American accents. Instead of Poirot, we get a southern-accented sleuth named Benoit Blanc, played by 007 star Daniel Craig. Joining him in the cast are Christopher Plummer as a mystery author whose apparent suicide just might be murder; Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, K Callan and Chris Evans as members of his dysfunctional family; M. Emmet Walsh and Frank Oz as members of the victim's staff; and Ana de Armas as Marta, the victim's private nurse, who – we learn surprisingly early in the movie – made a medication error that would have been fatal if her boss hadn't ordered her to join him in a suicide-based coverup.

Knowing whodunit from practically the start is an interesting way to enjoy a convoluted mystery, much of which has to do with Marta's skin-of-her-teeth escapes from being detected while, ironically, serving as Benoit's girl Friday during his investigation. Of course there's a fiendish twist, but being of a suspicious mind, I kind of saw it coming. Nevertheless, it was satisfying to see it unravel – satisfying in a viciously funny, this-family-is-so-awful-you-can't-look-away way. Everybody has a motive; everybody has an opportunity; and the most obviously guilty party is also the only person in the frame you can sympathize with, except perhaps the remarkably perspective sleuth.

Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) The initial interrogation of each member of the family, separately, during which Blanc gradually moves out of the background and starts prying pieces loose from their wall of silence and denial. I particularly liked his little tic of playing the highest key on the piano, seemingly just to break the interviewee's train of thought. (2) The climactic instance of the heroine's ridiculous (but convenient) habit of puking whenever she lies. (3) The "stupidest car chase" which also culminates in the final misunderstanding, from Marta's point of view, before all the puzzle pieces fall into place.

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