Knives Out (2019)

MORNING BELL

Food: This weekend had incredible weather, so my roommate and I took advantage of it. After the dog park, we went over to a spot on 9th called Mud, which was serving brunch and has a cute back pseudo-patio. We both got their breakfast burrito which was stuffed with beans, rice, bacon, eggs, salsa and had sour cream dipping sauce, along with a multitude of hot sauces. Also, they do a prix-fix brunch menu, so for about $20 you get a coffee, and your choice of juice or mimosa. It is not easy to find good breakfast burritos in NYC, so I definitely recommend this spot if that is what you are craving.

Film: “Knives Out” (2019) is a relentlessly fun twist on the classic mystery tale, falling somewhere between “Murder on the Orient Express” and Clue (the board game is even referenced at one point). On the morning after his 85th birthday, esteemed crime novelist, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is found dead at his estate, just after a family party. Though, initially presumed to be suicide, debonair Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with an amusing Louisiana drawl) is called in to investigate the case, cracking it wide open and taking a second look at each and every alibi.

While speaking to Detective Blanc and two lesser experienced cops (Lakeith Stanfield and Noah Segan), the scrambled events of the night are recounted by each member of Thrombey’s family and estate workers, spinning a delightful web of lies.

“Knives Out” has a stacked cast. So stacked, that it is surprising that it was not more talked about this year, except for that many of the films that came out this year were also fulled to the brim with big names (see: “The Irishman” and “Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood).

First, we meet Lynda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis), Thrombey’s eldest and most entrepreneurial child. She is curt, efficient and self-assured. She is married to Morris Brystow (Don Johnson), a charming and schmoozing man. They have one son, known even within the family as the most arrogant, reckless, befitting of every stereotype trust fund brat. He is Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans).

We are also introduced to Walt Thrombey (Michael Shannon), Thrombey’s second, and only living son. He took over his father’s publishing company, though, due to strict personal restrictions on the work, he is unable to monopolize it properly – a source of building frustration. He is accompanied by a mousy and strange wife (Riki Lindhome) and alt-right, social media absorbed teenage son (Jaeden Martell).

Thrombey’s third child has since passed away, but his widow, Joni (Toni Collette) and daughter Meg (Katherine Langford) proceed him, staying close to the family, and especially close to the money that being a part of the family provides. Toni Collette is hysterical in this role. She nailed this character in a glorious combination of perfectly timed inflections, eye rolls, hair flips and exasperated sighs as she flippantly spews the most pretentious pandering statements imaginable. I loved it.

Finally, the “help” as – of course – Ransom dismissively calls them. We have Fran (Edi Patterson) and Thrombey’s nurse and closest companion, Marta Cabrera (played magnificently by breakout star Ana de Armas).

As Marta, Armas is initially behind the veil. She is quiet, standing on the side lines. Unremarkable, but sweet. She is not suspicious. She is not conniving. She is just there. That is, until we hear her story, and quickly understand that our first impressions were painted by the characters we had previously met. She was unnoticeable because the rest of the family hardly noticed her. Consumed with themselves too much to have any concern for their staff, we see her as they do. Invisible. But suddenly, we are immersed into her memories of that evening, and a different person emerges. Still sweet and soft spoken, she is now also playful, competitive, self-assured and funny. Thrombey and Marta play a board game together each night. He relaxes with her after bearing the obnoxious attitudes from his family all night. She listens to him. They understand each other. And she just might be the one who has all the answers.

Each character is on the verge of being ridiculous, but due to attention to detail, they avoid feeling like caricatures. This is what happens when good writing meets great performances, elevating the typical who-done-it story. The film is strategic in keeping our excitement. It gives us answers and then morphs them.”Knives Out” is a substantial comedy, mystery and drama. It might even be the type of story Thrombey would have written himself.

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