clearn.png
Monday September 23rd, 2019 3:24AM

In razor-sharp 'Knives Out,' Johnson revives the whodunit

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

TORONTO (AP) — The whodunit, with its puffy armchairs, missing murder weapons and meandering trail of clues, never exactly went out of favor. But in "Knives Out," Rian Johnson has revived the genre with an affectionate ode to Agatha Christie that has some contemporary twists of its own.

"Knives Out" made its raucous premiere Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival, keeping rapt festival audiences engrossed in following Johnson's clever genre construction and the film's comic and star-studded ensemble, all of them crowded throughout a lavish country manor that one character refers to as "like a Clue board."

The crime is the apparent suicide of the wealthy crime novelist Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). But the famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, a kind of Louisiana-accented version of Christie's Hercule Poirot) suspects foul play, and he has a colorful cast of family members and others to investigate including Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson and Ana de Armas. Armas plays Thrombey's faithful immigrant nurse, whose nationality none of the family can get right and who can't help but vomit every time she tells a lie.

Johnson, whose last film was the contentious "Star Wars" installment "The Last Jedi," has already put his deconstructionist touch on film noir ("Brick") and sci-fi ("Looper"). But his love of whodunits runs deep. He grew up reading Christie paperbacks and loving their film adaptations — particularly those with Peter Ustinov as Poirot, such as "Death on the Nile" and "Evil Under the Sun."

He even counts himself a fan of the recent Adam Sandler-Jennifer Aniston Netflix film "Murder Mystery."

"I just love the genre," Johnson said in an interview. "Even though it's sort of a niche corner of a genre, I feel like it's a genre people love disproportionate to the amount of stuff that's out there. Whenever I say 'I just made a whodunit murder mystery,' there's a little glint in people's eyes."

"Knives Out," which Lionsgate will release Nov. 27, faithfully abides many of the traditions of the whodunit while playfully inverting others. Though saying much would spoil the fun, the mysteries of "Knives Out" hover around issues of class disparity and immigration.

"A lot of Christie's characters — like the stuffy old colonel or the butler or the free-thinking young woman who's smoking cigarettes — these are characters that now we think of as entombed in amber as if they're cliches," Johnson said. "But at the time, these were caricatures reminding us of types in British society. So the idea of using that same element of caricature in the framework of this very fun mystery with a modern American setting, with modern American character types, that seemed like fertile ground."

Johnson had the idea for "Knives Out" about 10 years ago and initially planned it as his follow-up to 2012's "Looper." ''Star Wars" changed that. Johnson is also developing a new trilogy for the expanding franchise.

"It wasn't a break in the sense of 'Oh god, I've got to get out this Star Wars machine,'" said Johnson of "Knives Out." ''But there was something really nice about the contrast of doing a very dialogue-based movie. I could hire all these fantastic actors and give them a lot of words. It's just been an essential part of 'Star Wars' to some degree you're always trying to figure out the simplest way to say any thought."

Johnson has some company in his admiration for Christie. Kenneth Branagh made 2017's "Murder on the Orient Express." It did well enough at the box office (an impressive $352.8 million worldwide) that he's prepping another adaptation for next fall: "Death on the Nile."

Like Branagh's film, "Knives Out" is an old-fashioned showcase for movie stars. But its appeal will, for many, be more in how it updates what can be a musty and familiar genre. It's certainly the only whodunit inspired, in part, by Radiohead. While the band's song "Knives Out" doesn't play in the film, Johnson (a fan) liked the expression.

"I hope they don't mind. It's not like the movie has anything to do with the song at all but it's a fantastic phrase," Johnson said. "It always stuck in my head."

___

Follow AP Film Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Entertainment, AP Online Movies News
© Copyright 2019 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Opera union launches investigation into Domingo allegations
The union that represents opera performers has launched its own internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against opera legend Placido Domingo
11:52AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Dorian still slamming eastern Canada at hurricane force
The storm that has already walloped the Virgin Islands, Bahamas and North Carolina is now bringing hurricane-force winds to far-eastern Canada
11:49AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Biden in lead, but does campaign have enthusiasm to keep it?
Joe Biden struggles to inspire public support to back up his front-runner status in the Democratic presidential race
11:41AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Spanish singer-songwriter Camilo Sesto dies at 72
Spanish singer and songwriter Camilo Sesto, a popular star in the 1970s and 1980s, has died of heart failure
8:52AM ( 3 hours ago )
Justices tuning in to cable television civil rights lawsuit
The Supreme Court is about to weigh in on a racial discrimination lawsuit involving Comcast and a Los Angeles-based media company owned by comedian and media mogul Byron Allen
8:33AM ( 3 hours ago )
Would you be mine? Hanks unveils his Mr. Rogers at festival
"A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," starring Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers, premiered Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival, revealing a nuanced and layered performance by "America's Dad" that goes well beyond the cardigan
1:00AM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Entertainment
Judge approves moves to streamline Weinstein case
A judge is signing off on changes mean to streamline Harvey Weinstein's sexual assault case as it moves to trial early next year
4:41PM ( 1 day ago )
Toronto Film Festival kicks off with The Band, Iannucci
The 44th Toronto International Film Festival is kicks off Thursday with a documentary celebration of Canada's own The Band and the premiere of Armando Iannucci's adaptation of 'David Copperfield'
8:55PM ( 2 days ago )
Crew reports multiple attempts to save 34 boat passengers
Investigators say the crew of the dive ship that sank off the Southern California coast made several attempts to save the 34 people who were trapped by fire and died
7:13PM ( 2 days ago )
AP Online Movies News
Opera union launches investigation into Domingo allegations
The union that represents opera performers has launched its own internal investigation into sexual harassment allegations against opera legend Placido Domingo
11:52AM ( 22 minutes ago )
Dorian still slamming eastern Canada at hurricane force
The storm that has already walloped the Virgin Islands, Bahamas and North Carolina is now bringing hurricane-force winds to far-eastern Canada
11:49AM ( 25 minutes ago )
Biden in lead, but does campaign have enthusiasm to keep it?
Joe Biden struggles to inspire public support to back up his front-runner status in the Democratic presidential race
11:41AM ( 33 minutes ago )
Ethiopian church-affiliated group urges action against gays
A group affiliated with Ethiopia's Orthodox Church is condemning what it calls the government's silence on homosexuality in the country
11:24AM ( 50 minutes ago )
Pope in Madagascar insists: 'Poverty is not inevitable'
Pope Francis insisted Sunday that poverty isn't inevitable and that the poor deserve the dignity of work as he visited a hilltop rock quarry in Madagascar where hundreds of people toil rather than scavenge in the capital's biggest dump
11:20AM ( 54 minutes ago )