Knives Out (2019)

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When a wealthy novelist winds up dead, the police and a highly eccentric detective are brought in to investigate. Through a series of interviews with the dead man’s quirky, narcissistic relatives, the officers realize that just about everyone had reason to kill him. The only person who seems to have no motive is Martha, the author’s nurse. This, coupled with the fact that she is physically incapable of lying (she throws up whenever she thinks about falsehood) leads them to recruit her in their investigation. But what will happen when they realize that Martha has her own secrets she’s been keeping from them? Watch the movie and find out.

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If you’re a fan of old-school, whodunit mysteries, like Clue, or the works of Agatha Christie, you will have the time of your life with Knives Out. In fact, the odds are very good that, even if you don’t like that specific sub-genre, you’ll still enjoy watching this movie. This is a funny, subversive, fast-paced crime-comedy, with a terrific cast, and a surprising amount of social commentary.  If you watch the trailers, you know that this movie has a ton of A-Listers in it, including Daniel Craig, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee-Curtis, Toni Colette, and Christopher Plummer. What that advertising doesn’t tell you is that none of them is actually the main character. The real star is Ana de Armas, whom plays Martha. When you realize that, you also realize that the film is less about a family trying to find out who murdered their father, and more about an immigrant woman doing everything she can to keep her undocumented mother safe. This movie actually features a ton of commentary on the current climate of xenophobia. One of the supporting characters is an alt-right troll who regularly posts hateful tweets about “anchor babies” and “terrorists posing as refugees.” There’s a scene where the cast debates the merits of Trump’s border wall. And, without getting into spoilers, a huge part of Martha’s motivation stems from the fact that she is an immigrant woman, who has no money, and whose mother is in the country illegally. I wasn’t expecting to see all of this in a Clue-style, Agatha Christie parody, but I’m personally glad it’s here. I also love how you find out what killed Christopher Plummer, the novelist, super early in the movie (as in, within the first 20 minutes). That was genuinely unexpected, and allowed the movie to transform from a stylish but well-worn whodunit into an original, truly funny take on the genre. And I do mean funny. There’s a whole scene where Daniel Craig, whom plays the eccentric detective, monologues about donuts that had me in stitches, it was that hilarious.

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Now, as much fun as I had with this movie, I do have a few quibbles with it. First, there’s the social commentary I mentioned earlier. I appreciated it, but I can see how it’d date this film in the future, and how some people could find it too heavy-handed. On top of that, while the acting is good, there are a few performances that veer dangerously close too cartoonish. Daniel Craig, for instance, has this absurd southern drawl that doesn’t even come close to sounding realistic. It honestly kind of threw me for the first few minutes. I eventually got over it once I reminded myself that the film is a comedy, and that Craig’s character is meant to be an over-the-top parody of detectives in fiction, but I can totally see other people not having any patience for it. Other than those things, though, I loved the movie. I thought it was funny, fast-paced, very well-written, and just an enjoyable, subversive romp. Don’t hesitate to give it a look.

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