Knives Out

Knives Out ★★★★

NOTE: I dance around spoilers but if you want to go in completely cold just know: FUN! Surprisingly political and better for it.


My house, my rules, my coffee

Rian Johnson's ode to Agatha Christie starts and ends with a coffee cup to great effect. Johnson has his knives out for modern America in Knives Out, choosing a cozy old-timey star-studded whodunit trope to carve up White American entitlement. It also twists the standard trope by presenting us with a suicide of the patriarch of a rich family (Christopher Plummer) which could be seen as a murder because of who was last with him, his daughter of an immigrant caretaker (Ana de Armas). So an innocent woman has to try to cover up her tracks from the day of the suicide so as to not be implicated. But... maybe there was a murder after all?

The twists and turns of Knives Out are fun, even if the who did it reveal was easily guessable at the start, but what elevates it as a movie is the politics tucked in throughout. Such as the oldest daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis) boasted of building her own fortune on her own—even though her father kickstarted her career with a million dollar loan (sound familiar to our current President? It's the exact same dollar amount that Trump started with even though he loves to describe himself as self made). The dead man was an author of very popular murder mystery novels and his publishing company is run by his son-in-law (again, sound familiar?). A key argument before the father's suicide/murder was overheard by a grandson who's interested in Men's Rights/White Nationalism and is described in this key scenario as "the Nazi masturbating in the bathroom." (Trolls in rich families certainly do not practice #BeBetter.) But, while a lot of this sounds like a Succession spin on And Then There Were None... it's important to note that Plummer isn't a Trump blowhard racist, but is a kind man who's grown weary of his family's lack of ambition. And the family considers themselves on the right side of liberal causes, but all that goes out the window when they learn the reading of the will, as the money they felt entitled actually gets divvied up for an actual noble cause, their need to protect the status quo at all cost ramps up. Sharing isn't an option. Johnson isn't picking on MAGA outright but white privilege of all varieties, including those who say the right things but practice another (though Curtis' husband, Don Johnson, is an out loud Trump supporter). Each family member who comments on their father's nurse gives her a different nation of origin: Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, whatever Latin country they can think of because they're all the same to this family. They love commenting on her work ethic, but she's still not as worthy as them.

At the heart of Knives Out is the kicking-screaming fear of "the other" inheriting the castle of America. And they reveal their true colors when their inheritance is threatened. The house itself was bought in the 80s, even though the family speaks of it being theirs for generations, highlighting the falsehood of this land being their land, even though it was acquired from others. And when blackmail takes the nurse to an abandoned storefront to make a payment, she has to enter through the back door, and as soon as she enters Johnson focuses on a washing machine brand behind her called AMERICAN. It isn’t subtle about its pro-immigration stance and unstuffying a stuffy old filmgoer genre to do that is damn delicious.

When it comes to portraying a family that views being rich as their birthright, Knives Out is so much better than Ready or Not because it invests in layers of subtext and it ends with a great "Fuck you" shot to those screaming the loudest about how unfair it is to share. It helps that it's also a very fun movie with repeated zingers and triple entendres and that each nagging thought has an answer like Johnson wrote this forward then backwards then forward again to cover his tracks from movie trolls calling out his potential plotholes. Did I mention that Toni Collette is basically playing Gwyneth Paltrow in full Goop mode? Dunk a donut in this coffee. Them's the rules.

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