Knives Out (2019)
Knives Out was loved both by critics and many of my friends. I was excited to see it. I saw Knives Out and, meh. Sure there’s loads good about it, but a lot of it annoyed me too.
George Marshall from George’s Film Blog, was talking on Twitter about how much he’d enjoyed Knives Out. George’s writing is great and we got chatting about doing a piece on it with both of our opinions. Two different pieces, one on each site, that compliment each other. At least I hope they compliment each other, I paid him a tenner to do so for mine.
Breach of contract if not George, my lawyers are on standby.
What Knives Out does is right from the start let you know you’re being deceived by the story but leave you constantly guessing. Like any murder mystery it knows it is a murder mystery and it knows you know that it is a murder mystery. The conundrum of Knives Out’s whodunit is what grabs you and it is instantly seductive.
Wealthy Harlan Thrombey turns up dead one morning and his oddball, selfish family all have means, motive and opportunity to have bumped him off for his fortune. As does the maid, Marta, a young Hispanic lady who is, to the families chagrin, also clearly popular with the old geezer.
With a litany of stars including Daniel Craig, Christopher Plumber, Jamie Lee Curtis and Toni Collette and written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) somehow Knives Out’s biggest asset is the quirky, Royal Tenenbaums-esq mansion where the film is set for the most part. For me, the film starts to go downhill when this excellently designed centrepiece is left and what feels like a lovely, clever intimate story tries to go “Hollywood”.
I asked George about this.
“It does feel very Wes Anderson in terms of style. The wacky characters, Benoit Blanc (Craig) is very funny with his utterly ridiculous accent. I found him to be a good spoof of Agatha Christie's Poirot! I do think it can be polarising as a style – the massive house and screwy characters add up to a strong Poirot parody but for some that works and some it does not.”
Despite what is admittedly a huge strong point, Knives Out flatters to deceive. With its excellent abode and murderous mystique it should be so much more, but at about the halfway point it becomes contrived and too clever for its own good. I began to lose interest and by the end felt very flat about it.
A crap mystery won’t grab you. A great problem to solve makes you come for the intrigue and stay for the entertainment- Knives Out has this in spades, or spoons, or forks or something. For two acts. I use acts deliberately because the film feels like a wonderful expansion of a great play which blows its wad too early. Sadly it doesn’t apologise and accept the faux pas- happens to the best of us. I assume. I’m not one of the best of us.
Along with its annoying digression into other genres (thriller, action, ah fuck it I was just annoyed they left the house) Knives Out really riled me when it did something I hate when Hollywood films try to do. Social commentary. On this Knives Out can get out; it’s as subtle as The Sun and more expensive and annoying. I put this to George.
“I agree the social commentary is nowhere near as strong as it could have been. I feel like a lot of it is not meant to be taken seriously but is more of a ‘fuck you’ to the ruling classes. Therefore, it is not strong but it feels more like it is trying to poke fun at the powers that be – the old families with entrenched wealth and entitled brats for kids.”
Annoyingly, mainly because I like being the only voice on Bedsit Cinema, I’ll concede to George here; any fuck you to the powers that be is a good fuck you to the powers that be. I am well aware George was polite and didn’t say fuck. I say bring back the guillotine!
“I did find it brilliant how Marta was able to get everything while the family was left with nothing. Rhian Johnson said he wanted a whodunnit where you are rooting for the killer and in that way I found it very inventive and original. I think it does nail that and that is what keeps the film interesting enough because it becomes can Marta get away with it?”
There we are. Is Knives Out a delicious slice out of the murder mystery, or a promising premise and set up hoisted by its own petard? That’s very much for you to decide and please read George’s complimentary piece on Knives Out- and all of his blog.
Probably. You might enjoy it; or like me, half of it. 5/10.
READ GEORGE'S PERSPECTIVE ON KNIVES OUT HERE