Knives Out

Knives Out ★★★★

[Originally published on my blog]:

It takes a special kind of confidence to draw so much attention to the exacting clockwork structure of your whodunit that you not only put the word “knives” in the title, but you stage a large portion of the interrogation scenes with the subjects framed around a massive prize-wheel-sized collection of various daggers. Luckily for Johnson, he justifies every ounce of that confidence with a script that manages to be both smarter than its audience at every turn (keep trying to solve it in advance and you’ll look like a fool) and humble enough not to be smug or arrogant about it.

But if this were just a fun Agatha Christie homage (and Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc is the southern Cajun version of Poirot’s outsized Belgian accent), it wouldn’t cut as deep — no, this is a pointed rebuke to Trump’s America, an unsubtle attack on the self-righteous, entitled attitudes of wealthy, white-American blue-bloods who resent immigrant workers coming to take their jobs and their money. There’s a running gag about Marta’s origins (every time she’s discussed, nobody can remember which South American country she’s from: Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil…) and her stupid little Hyundai looks weak and pathetic, but she uses its narrow size to nearly escape the police in a car chase. The intelligent working class finds advantages in their disadvantages.

Since this is a talky, exposition-heavy script, Johnson’s dialogue has to do a lot of the character building, but it does so with clever panache most of the time (Collette’s Gen-X gold-digging widow “read a tweet about a New Yorker article about” the detective, but Curtis’s silver-spooned Boomer actually read the profile). It goes too far in one sequence, heavy-handedly showing the family debate politics in a redundant feud over immigration policy. The movie’s subtext already addresses this; why textually litigate it? Also, there’s a seemingly huge plot hole I won’t reveal but has me mostly worried that because Johnson’s so much smarter than me, it isn’t actually a hole but just something I wasn’t wise enough to solve. At least that puts me in good company with every other member of this cast.

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