I love writer/director Rian Johnson. He’s great. I don’t need a pitch to be convinced to give any of his films a viewing – he’s enough to get me excited. Still, knowing that Knives Out was billed as a modern whodunnit with an all-star cast only made me more jazzed. All you would have needed to get me on board was, “Clue for the modern era,” but this movie is far more than that.
I’ll be honest – this isn’t a comedy. It has some very funny, laugh out loud moments, but joking isn’t the tone at hand for the bulk of this. It’s also not a drama, though the family dynamics at play include drugs, drink, infidelity and all manner of lying. More than anything, Knives Out evokes a classic sort of mystery novel: grand manors, secret passageways, a large fortune, and numerous possibilities for who did the murderous deed. Because of this, you cannot help but enjoy the absurdity of accented, flashy, shouting characters vying for their share of the riches up for grabs. It’s simply too fun.
Still, I can’t help but be impressed with the degree of sincerity Johnson manages in his outlandish tale. It’s best to avoid spoilers, so I won’t give away any of the plot, but it’s worth knowing that there is a really terrific set of statements made throughout that speak to the modern audience in a way that murder mysteries have rarely done before, whether in print or on film. There’s a statement about the way wealthy white people have tended to treat the immigrant persons of color around them for a long time, and how this trend needs to change in a radical way. There’s a message about how beautiful and charming people in the upper class are often allowed to get away with doing very bad things. Counter to these, there’s also a wonderful portrayal demonstrating that money and power do not necessarily corrupt, and a kind heart is ultimately more important than ruthlessness or selfishness.
All told, Knives Out sometimes suffers from belaboring the point and dolloped pacing. Nonetheless, it’s a worthwhile watch, and one that I think any fan of Rian Johnson will enjoy.
What great fun, and what a delightful film!