Knives Out is one of the best films I have seen in theaters for quite some time. That, of course, was back in 2019, but with it now being released to Amazon Prime I had a chance to rewatch the movie and enjoy it again.
One thing that immediately struck me was the text on the screen displaying character names in the opening part of the movie. They would sit down to interview one of the family members, say Linda, and ‘Linda’ was displayed on the screen in nice font. This was combined with flashbacks as the interview content was reviewed, and the amusing subtle variations in how one character’s telling was different from another. You very much had the feeling of this being an investigation, but on the other hand it was also clearly and overtly dramatized – in a good way.
The tone of the film was one of the most well done parts, and is also exceedingly difficult to describe. Cleverly absurd yet surprisingly relatable is what I think fits. One quote that stuck out to me on both watchings was this:
A case with a hole in the middle… A donut?!Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc, spoken in a unique southern accent.
Which is to say, the tone of the film is practical investigation much of the time (‘a case with a hole in the middle’) and then absurd at other times (‘a donut!?’). Another completely absurd moment is the car chase, where Marta and Ransom flee in a very under-powered car and it hardly justifies being called a ‘chase’ at all. Yet that under-powered car made it all feel more relatable than any sports car chase every would. The fact that the plot is set in the mansion of a mystery novelist is the plausible reason most of these odd bits are present – the mystery writer in question incorporated odd quirks into his house and life as references to the various dramatic elements in the books he wrote.
One such quirk that took me by surprise is the regurgitative lie reflex of our main character Marta Cabrera. Really, why would someone feel forced to vomit after any lie? Yet the movie does a good job of establishing it as authentic, and then rather masterfully uses it to demonstrate the worth of Marta and the methods of Mr. Blanc.
Mr Blanc and Marta are both very much set as outsiders to the Thrombey family. The Thrombey family has the wise, caring, but slightly mismanaging Walt as its now dead head. The rest of the family are normal in all the bad ways, arrogantly caring almost exclusively for money and politics. Two police officers join the cast in a more minor role, one as a voice of practical reason, the other as comic relief.
I must say the character I most relate to, perhaps unfortunately, is Ransom. He is the black sheep of the family, living it up on a trust fund. He is innately unlikable, but yet in contrast with the rest of the family you are forced to grudgingly like him in a few ways – just as his grandfather Walt both loves and hate him. What makes him more attractive as a character (besides the fact that Captain America ie Chris Evans plays the role) is that he seems to be one of the few family members who is both clever and open about his intentions. At least he seems to acknowledge that his life is built on his grandfather’s fortune, something all the other family members try hard to deny. All of the family are various flavors of selfish, but Ransom at least has some more depth to his nature.
Right now, we have absurd and relatable as major elements of this movie, and all is set to deliver a good comedy. Yet the movie is not a comedy, it is far more powerful than that. The movie grows quite dark with the family’s bitter squabbles coming out. We see the family begin to attack with rabid passion for pieces of the will. And of course there is the crowning tragedy of the role Marta plays in the death of Walt.
The horror of making a mistake and being helpless to correct it, the humanity of that all the stronger for the squabbles which surround it, that is the most powerful and my favorite part of the film.
Yet in the end justice is served and the good person wins. It is refreshing to see a drama of normal people tell such a good tale, no superheroes required.
Finally, the film has a good soundtrack which really fits the movie and the genre.