Knives Out (2019)
November 23, 2019 6:07 AM - Subscribe

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan's dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan's untimely death.
posted by the primroses were over (133 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Saw a preview showing of this last night, and it was soooo good.

I love a murder mystery, especially a funny one, and Rian Johnson knocks it out of the park with this one. Lots of comparisons to Agatha Christie in the reviews, which is fair, but it reminded me most vividly of The Westing Game . (That last link is just to a Wikipedia summary, but if you like fun murder mysteries and don't mind a middle grade novel, you should just go read The Westing Game if you somehow haven't already.

I thought they played with detective troupes really well and came up with a plot that was fun and twisty without being convoluted. Loved the performances, especially Ana De Armas - but it seemed like everyone was having a blast, which I think is a necessary component of a good caper film.

There is some vomiting, which I do not love in movies, but, weirdly, it is character and plot relevant vomiting, so I got over it.

I'll come back later - I have a conspiracy theory I don't want to detail in the very first comment, among other things I still want to squeal about later.

Oh, and they use Spanish dubbed Murder, She Wrote footage! It was great.
posted by the primroses were over at 6:26 AM on November 23 [8 favorites]


oooh if this is like The Westing Game I definitely want to see it!!
posted by supermedusa at 10:02 AM on November 23


There's an old Choose Your Own Adventure book called Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? Which I know of, thanks to it being covered by the podcast, Finish It.

The name is so similar, and it's such a weird name. I'd really like to know if there's any other connection between the movie and the book.
posted by meese at 8:31 PM on November 23 [4 favorites]


Doesn’t come out here til Thursday and I am excited to see it but was waiting with trepidation for the reviews. Glad to hear it’s as fun as it looks!
posted by arha at 3:37 AM on November 24


This is a very dangerous thread to read if you haven’t seen the film.
posted by roger ackroyd at 2:31 PM on November 24 [3 favorites]


This movie was just so much fun! There were several moments when the entire theater started laughing, and I think I heard clapping at the end. A wholly satisfying whodunnit and a bit of send-up of classic mystery tropes and relevant social commentary all in one entertaining package.
posted by peacheater at 2:27 PM on November 27 [2 favorites]


This was a lot of fun! My family loves, loves, loves Clue, and we loved this. Such a fun Thanksgiving movie. The entire cast was great, but, whoa!, we were so impressed with Daniel Craig. He was delightful.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 2:33 PM on November 27 [1 favorite]


This was a beautiful celebration of menswear and the murder mystery genre and also somehow a roasting of me, personally.
posted by The Whelk at 6:36 PM on November 27 [25 favorites]


What fun! I saw it last night and now I'm bummed no one in my family had seen it so I can't talk about it
posted by Carillon at 1:17 PM on November 28


I guess the trick to beating Harlan Thrombey at Go is the same as beating Sirna Kolrami at Strategema.

Several of the rooms in that house reminded me of this tweet.
posted by ckape at 8:10 PM on November 28 [1 favorite]


Just came back from it and honestly didn’t enjoy that much. It was fine. It made me wanna go home and rewatch Clue? I wish it had leaned harder into the absurdism and the humour.
posted by liquorice at 2:12 AM on November 29 [4 favorites]


Johnson collaborated with the Alamo Drafthouse on a program of films that inspired Knives Out: Alamo Drafthouse website link. I haven't seen all of these, so notes for further viewing.
posted by the primroses were over at 7:24 AM on November 29 [3 favorites]


I'll come back later - I have a conspiracy theory I don't want to detail in the very first comment, among other things I still want to squeal about later.

I wanna hear it!

I enjoyed Knives Out a lot -- stylish, funny, cutting. I'm thinking about this movie in connection with Get Out, Arrested Development, Gosford Park, and other films/TV about rich white families, their houses, and their entitlement.
posted by brainwane at 10:39 AM on November 29 [4 favorites]


I also enjoyed the film, and would recommend it. The only thing that dampened my enthusiasm is that the plot is so convoluted that it takes Daniel Craig almost 20 minutes (I didn't time it, so it might have been more) to explain how who did what to whom. But that's immediately followed by a plot twist and a clever visual gag, so at least we're kept occupied.

By the way, according to this, Johnson and Craig had so much fun with Craig's detective that they intend to make more movies with him. Whether that will actually happen is anyone's guess, but it could be a lot of fun.
posted by ubiquity at 1:10 PM on November 29 [6 favorites]


I loved this! I'm a sucker for this genre as I count Clue and Gosford Park among my most beloved films. Nevertheless, I thought each performer knocked their respective parts right out of the park. I was pleasantly surprised by how funny Daniel Craig and Chris Baker were, in particular.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:25 PM on November 29 [1 favorite]


Chris Evans, not some other guy named Chris Evans. The Fantastic Four guy, you all know who I mean.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:33 PM on November 29 [2 favorites]


I have a conspiracy theory - when Marta told Harlan that she’d mixed up the vials, he knew she was wrong, but he wanted an epic murder mystery death, so he seized the opportunity.
posted by misfish at 9:43 PM on November 29 [9 favorites]


Not epic murder mystery death, but “I’ll make a situation that will destory my horrible family” it works even if he thought the injection was real.
posted by The Whelk at 10:10 PM on November 29 [1 favorite]


Well, he’s already pretty much completed his plan to destroy the family. Dying right then after he’d handled everything seems perfect. Maybe he was trying to provoke one of them to try and kill him, even?
posted by misfish at 10:35 PM on November 29


I kept wondering if Marta and Meg were a couple, in fact I'm still wondering.
posted by emjaybee at 11:27 PM on November 29 [4 favorites]


I kept wondering if Marta and Meg were a couple, in fact I'm still wondering.

That scene near the end where they hug, and then Meg smiles...I though "Ok, now kiss!"
posted by Gorgik at 3:20 AM on November 30


I loved it, as did Kitteh -- we could have done without the Thanksgiving dinner argument lean-in at the midpoint, but that was only a very faint blemish (and we get the thematic relevance) in a pretty impeccable movie.

Comparing notes at the end, we both believed up til the midpoint that Harlan might have faked his own death somehow, trying to live out his final great mystery instead of just committing one to the page -- swapped out the morphine for water and faked the 'suicide,' with Meg in on it -- but this was better.

Getting up this morning we both agreed it's the most fun we've had in the theatre in a while; just the pleasure of seeing a well-made watch tick away. Daniel Craig also having the most fun with a Southern accent since The Ladykillers and Tom Hanks devouring entire chunks of scenery with fanatical gusto.
posted by Shepherd at 5:23 AM on November 30 [6 favorites]


It's odd that it hasn't been more widely noted that the film is essentially a satire on modern America culture - on the one hand White Middle Class America, ranged from the nazi on one hand to the SJW on the other and all shades in between, at each others throats until their privilege is threatened at which point they all close ranks (Meg may feel guilty about selling Marta out - or at least say she does - but that doesn't stop her selling Marta out). On the other hand there's Marta, obviously, Fran (the Help), the two detectives (of whom one is black), and Benoit Blanc. Ransom sneers at Blanc for his accent (the KFC line which also perhaps mis-origins him, the way they are constantly doing with Marta. After all, with a French name, surely he's from Louisiana, though I may be doing it myself there, I'm only conjecturing). What plays out from there is a battle between privilege and its civilities and everybody else.

"The money is ours. We worked for it. We made it." No it isn't, and you didn't. The scene where Walt corners Marta in the corridor and says "We'll help you - we have the resources to make it all right" and she replies "No, I have the resources, they're mine now", was one of those lines you hope people in films will say, and usually they don't, and I was silently cheering in my seat.

(I don't know about the other detective, who's obviously a white guy, but there might be some tell in something he says or does to suggest he's non-U.)

Actually, it's not so much I whodunnit - I realised most of the solution while it was playing out - but a social satire in the clothes of a whodunnit (not an ignoble tradition - Sleuth immediately springs to mind). The pleasure is watching the characters and seeing (spoilers) Marta win out.

I hope Rian Johnson doesn't waste his time making more Star Wars movies. His resources are much better spent on films like this. Certainly, I'd be perfectly happy for Daniel Craig to trade in the James Bond series for a putative Benoit Blanc series.

(The accent seems to be the same one he developed for Logan Lucky. I have no idea how authentic it is, but it sure is fun watching him do it.)
posted by Grangousier at 9:41 AM on November 30 [21 favorites]


Benoit telling the horrible spoiled children of inherited wealth “this time you don’t get bailed out!” made me go ping! Zeitgeist!
posted by The Whelk at 9:47 AM on November 30 [6 favorites]


A couple more things:

The trailer and the whole vibe suggested something much cleverer and tricksier than it actually is - as I say, I got all the clues as they came up and they were hardly hidden, it was halfway to Columbo - but if it had been vertiginous stunt plotting (The Last of Sheila, say), I don't think it would have been half as much fun.

About the family-as-the-American-Middle-Class: also, perhaps, worth noting that you have the pre-Boomer (85 is probably too young to be actual Great Generation) who built it all, the Boomers who think they did (but, in fact, just inherited it from Dad), the sardonic Gen-X-er (who realises it's all just privilege and is keen to make sure the privilege is shored up, at least for him), and the Millenials for whom the privilege is just air.

I mean, to me, it's looking as much J.B. Priestley as Agatha Christie.
posted by Grangousier at 11:14 AM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I love that the film begins and ends with the same "mug shot."

We loved it and the whole (nearly-full) theatre applauded at the end- I cannot remember when that last happened.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:01 PM on November 30 [10 favorites]


Just saw it. Really enjoyed it and don't have a whole lot to add to the discussion that hasn't already been touched on. My theater was also nearly full and had a bit of clapping at the end, so that's apparently a trend happening with this movie. This would be an interesting pairing with Brick for a Rian Johnson murder mystery movie night.
posted by acidnova at 5:40 PM on November 30


I saw it yesterday and really enjoyed it, which wasn't a surprise as the genre is right in my sweet spot, and I've actually been reading a ton of golden age detective stuff at the moment. It's mostly about watching these great actors have so much fun inhabiting the characters with the backdrop of that incredible house (I want to know how long it took the set dressers to find everything, and where, and can I have some of it?). I loved Chris Evans leaning into charismatic asshole, I loved Jamie Lee Curtis' pantsuits, I loved how freaking charismatic Christopher Plummer still is, and I loved the little knife sticks that the script lets happen so quietly that you can almost miss them but you don't. I'd definitely go see this again in the theater. Just a real quiet pleasure.
posted by PussKillian at 6:33 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


I have a conspiracy theory - when Marta told Harlan that she’d mixed up the vials, he knew she was wrong, but he wanted an epic murder mystery death, so he seized the opportunity.

It seems like the biggest unexplained aspect of the story. My take on it was that Harlan had a suspicion about being murdered, and had a further suspicion about Marta being framed. He must have realized early on that he wasn't poisoned by morphine (something a meticulous crime writer might already be aware of), but began concocting a plan in his head where Marta is removed from being a suspect, and thereby no longer has a target on her back. So long as he and Marta both live, there's a huge incentive for Ransom to either a) go to the family with what he knows and rally support, or b) frame Marta for his murder (maybe even convinced the family to go along). Even if the poison switch fails, it's difficult to impossible to prove that there was either ill intent or that it was Ransom behind it. So he makes a split second decision to end a life that he doesn't seem that attached to any longer, especially with his disappointment in how his progeny have turned out.

My own conspiracy theory is that Harlan was actually getting his stories either from Blanc, or from Blanc's father. Some of them anyway.
posted by codacorolla at 8:37 PM on November 30 [3 favorites]


One thing I didn't understand was why Fran arranged the secret meeting with Ransom at all. Why didn't she just go directly to the cops about what she had seen?
posted by Sangermaine at 10:16 PM on November 30 [2 favorites]


My own conspiracy theory is that Harlan was actually getting his stories either from Blanc, or from Blanc's father. Some of them anyway.

Benoit Blanc, eccentric dandy Southern detective, does seem exactly the sort of character who would appear in an endless series of mystery novels.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:20 PM on November 30 [7 favorites]


This movie is the most fun thing I've seen in the theater in a while. I'm looking forward to watching it again. The interrogation scenes were wonderfully cut, but my favorite part had to be the doughnut hole in a doughnut speech with the officer, out of focus, making gesticulating in the background.

After the first Marta reveal, I really thought the movie was going to be a 100% screwball comedy about keeping Benoit Blanc from discovering the truth and that Marta was going to find out that she hadn't actually switched the bottles/Harlan faked his death or that Marta was going to let Ransom take the fall in the end (which would have been less satisfying, probably). It just took too long for Harlan to die without showing any symptoms.

(I also thought that Benoit Blanc was going to drop the accent at the end for Daniel Craig's real accent)

My theater wasn't full - to be fair, I also saw it during a snowstorm and the roads were shit. But there was a lot of laughter and some clapping at the end.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:10 AM on December 1 [1 favorite]


One thing I didn't understand was why Fran arranged the secret meeting with Ransom at all. Why didn't she just go directly to the cops about what she had seen?

I think she wanted to get paid; my sense was that she resented the entire family, too, and wanted her own slice of that fortune. I didn’t think that part was very well developed.

Also: what an amazing collection of sweaters.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:38 AM on December 1 [7 favorites]


The sweaters were perfect. Ransom's Aran sweater with the unraveled cuff, Marta's synthetic ones that don't fit quite right, it was great.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:14 AM on December 1 [10 favorites]


The Massachusetts aspects were also perfect. I have been in houses like that. I went to prep school with people in those sweaters. I have eaten doughnuts.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:16 AM on December 1 [11 favorites]


That aran sweater had me internally screaming, "Marta! Don't trust him!" I can't say exactly what it is but that sweater was absolutely perfect for that character. Outwardly charming but a total scumbag.
posted by acidnova at 9:30 AM on December 1 [7 favorites]


Even the font for the credits and captions was perfect.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:40 AM on December 1 [5 favorites]


my favorite part had to be the doughnut hole in a doughnut speech with the officer, out of focus, making gesticulating in the background.

YES!!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 10:02 AM on December 1 [7 favorites]


I didn’t think “the nurse has a drop of her patient’s blood on her shoe” was the big deal the movie set it up to be, though.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:33 AM on December 1


The Star Wars / Knives Out crossover meme we all needed. (Contains a gentle spoiler for the existence of a character in The Mandalorian!)
posted by bcwinters at 1:15 PM on December 1 [2 favorites]


Did Ransom ever confess to switching the medications? I only remember him confessing to the murder of the house keeper.
posted by meese at 1:18 PM on December 1


Just saw this last night and had an absolute ball. I mean, I went because I'm a ridiculous hige Captain America fan and I have loved Craig for years, but the rest of the cast was a big draw as well, especially Jaime Lee Curtis, Christopher Plummer, Lakeith Standfield, and Don Johnson. (I'm really enjoying the Don Johnson rennaissance lately, and no movie where Michael Shannon gets to be a little unhinged could be bad, if you ask me.)

We had to go for drinks afterward, because my friend had seen it once, and there was a lot I missed because the whole small theatre I saw it at was laughing so much, or I was. I needed it explained to me why Harlan really did kill himself if he wasn't actually poisoned, I got a little lost on the rambling explanation, but I like the explanation above about him wanting to go out on a perfect murder mystery death after tidying up with his family.

Craig was flamazing, and Ana de Armis was someone I'd never seen before but fell instantly in love with. All last night, and today, I've been wandering around laughing till I cry every time I think of "the Nazi child masturbating in the bathroom."

I loved the reveal of the mug at the end, but I swear, that whole scene in the car with Marta and Benoit was making me stressed, because it seemed like Chekhov's barf cup and I kept waiting for him to drink from it.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 4:06 PM on December 1 [9 favorites]


I don't know if Marta will be able to hold strong against the pressure to license adaptations, considering that murder mysteries are apparently all that her family watches.
posted by ckape at 4:07 PM on December 1 [6 favorites]


Comparing notes at the end, we both believed up til the midpoint that Harlan might have faked his own death somehow, trying to live out his final great mystery instead of just committing one to the page

Yeah, my conspiracy theory alluded to in my first comment would be that I am a "Harlan Thrombey is still alive" truther. I don't know how he got the police/ME in on it - he's super rich, whatever, *hand waving* - but I think it is highly suspicious that he blew up his relationships with half his family like a week after a famous private detective he has an in with was featured in a publication he knows multiple people in his family follow (at least on Twitter). He makes a comment to Marta shortly before cutting his own throat about knowing the difference between prop knives and real ones (granted, this pays out at the end with a different character mistaking one for the other, but so what!). I'll have to watch it again - I feel like I had more justifications for my insane hobby horse immediately after viewing. I think I found the timing of Grandma Thrombey's chuckle during Blanc's recital of events to the family significant, but I no longer remember why...

Anyway, I think the text of the movie makes clear that Harlan just saw his chance to have some fun with his death and took it, but I loved that character and refuse to believe he is gone. He definitely gets in touch with Marta, apologizes for putting her through that, and gets their Go games happening again after the credits roll, and I will hear no differently.

By the way, according to this, Johnson and Craig had so much fun with Craig's detective that they intend to make more movies with him. Whether that will actually happen is anyone's guess, but it could be a lot of fun.

My dream sequel would end with Blanc recounting his tale to Harlan, revealing that both mine and codacorolla's theories are correct - Harlan is now writing the Benoit Blanc mysteries under a pen name.

I love that the film begins and ends with the same "mug shot."

I think making this movie center around Marta was a great choice. I liked how zany the film was overall and enjoyed how much fun all the actors were having with their types, but I think it worked because Marta felt like a real person stuck in this insane mess (ok, a real person with one slap stick and plot convenient quirk). Ana de Armas' performance was excellent.

This Crime Reads review goes into some detail about the how the choice to make Marta the protagonist enhances both the murder mystery and social commentary aspects of the narrative.

My favorite part of the ending though, is that we're left wondering what Marta is going to do with her inheritance. Blanc has a line, that I wish I could remember exactly, about what he would do with the money and how he thinks Marta will handle it differently. And then Marta walks out on the balcony and surveys the family, who warily watch her sipping from Harlan's mug. Is she going to help out the family, because she's the one good person in the movie? Or does that mug indicate she's come around to Harlan's point of view on his terrible relatives? We've established that Marta is the morally good person, but what does a good person do with that much wealth?
posted by the primroses were over at 4:36 PM on December 1 [8 favorites]


Benoit Blanc, eccentric dandy Southern detective, does seem exactly the sort of character who would appear in an endless series of mystery novels.

I love that he kept trying to narrate his story and then...losing his way a bit. He's the real deal eccentric detective, not the real deal eccentric mystery writer.

I like that they left the ending a little open regarding Marta helping the family. I get the sense that she'll help with Meg's tuition -- and maybe not fire the son in charge of the publishing company -- but the balance of power was the real point. The family went from insisting that they would of course help Marta, she's part of the family (though not invited to the funeral) to Marta reassuring Meg that of course she wouldn't have to worry about paying for school. Not so fun relying on promised good will from the other side! (The scenes between Ana de Armas and Christopher Plummer we're great for that. Plummer was her direct employer, but you got much less of a boss/underling approach there than any of Marta's other interactions with the family.)

What a fun movie! And what a great way to go for a mystery writer. I don't think he had a single regret.
posted by grandiloquiet at 6:11 PM on December 1 [6 favorites]


We're all agreed, right? No one actually voted for Marta to be invited to the funeral, right?

Except maybe Meg.
posted by meese at 6:44 PM on December 1 [8 favorites]


As many people got Marta's nationality right as wanted her invited to the funeral.
posted by ckape at 6:56 PM on December 1 [13 favorites]


Just saw this and loved it, particularly how it kept switching between a mystery and thriller structure, leaving the real question to be whether there was any mystery here at all.

The Thanksgiving dinner politics argument scene was thematically appropriate and revealing of character, but I think its real payload was in slyly reframing Marta's relationship with the family. When she was first introduced, the description of her as a member of the family was illustrated with a shot of Richard with a big smile inviting her to come join the conversation. In that scene we got to see that shot again, this time in context. Richard wasn't inviting her to join the family, he was dragging her over for a command performance as the "good immigrant" in order to score points in an argument with his in-laws.
posted by firechicago at 8:03 PM on December 1 [16 favorites]


I especially enjoyed the black eye that mysteriously appeared on Don Johnson in the last shots
posted by bq at 8:04 PM on December 1 [14 favorites]


I loved the movie as a piece of entertainment, but also for the tweaking of white nationalistic "they will replace us" fears by . . . having Marta replace them.

OTOH I really liked Benoit Blanc's character and was glad Rian Johnson stopped short of completely deconstructing the eccentric white male private detective and having him b e buffoon or fellow travelling elitist/racist. The level of mockery he got was just about perfect (as in oblivious to an ambulance pulling in behind him.)
posted by mark k at 9:02 PM on December 1 [6 favorites]


Just saw this and agree that it was very satisfying. The decision to show the actual death scene half an hour in was daring, and had me off balance for the rest of the picture.

The puke thing was a little off-key to me -- it felt more like something from pure farce, which the rest of the film didn't rise to. Although there were a few elements like that (exhibits A through H being Blanc's whole vibe, especially contrasted against the other two officers). I'm sure Johnson knows a lot more about the conventions of the country house murder mystery than me, and that playing with tone was part of the fun for him.

I liked the little Sondheim shoutout, with Blanc singing Losing My Mind in Marta's Hyundai. Foreshadowing for the "coffee cup" shot at the end? Probably not, but I'd like to think so. I also like to imagine noted mystery fan Stephen Sondheim watching the movie and getting stoked by that.

And the doughnut monologue! I'd go a second time just to see the doughnut monologue again.
posted by rollick at 3:07 AM on December 2 [2 favorites]


regarding Marta helping the family
The only one that really concerns me is Harlan's mother.
Everyone else in the family can take care of themselves, but cutting her off would be cruel.

BTW, nobody's mentioned the baseball yet. Iff Richard hadn't thrown the ball in frustration, Linda would've had no reason to go to her father's desk and find his note. A perfect circle.
posted by cheshyre at 3:29 AM on December 2 [12 favorites]


I thought the real cherry on top was the way Meg, the white feminist, stops treating Marta as a person as soon as her own comfort is at stake.
posted by tofu_crouton at 5:35 AM on December 2 [16 favorites]


Yeah, I didn't get the impression that Meg voted for Marta to attend the funeral - she wouldn't actually stand up to her family for Marta (I also forget if Meg said if she got a vote or not - she's college aged, so might not have).
posted by dinty_moore at 7:01 AM on December 2


Eh, idly suggesting that a group of people do the right thing doesn't require much effort. Meg and her mom suggest that "the help" should be invited to the funeral; the siblings and other grandchildren insist that the funeral is for real family and the help of course will be invited to the memorial. Meg and her mother's Good Behavior has been quickly "outvoted" by their bad relatives, everyone's honor is satisfied, and no one is ever uncomfortable. (And Fran gets the chance to blackmail Ransom, setting up the big finish.)

I loved how the blood drop on the shoe (I thought it was on her jacket lapel) came around at the very end. It was the last of many threads left dangling to worry us about Marta's fate...Benoit explaining that he'd seen it from their very first meeting was a great final moment to reassure the audience that he's actually quite good at what he does.

(Also! Benoit getting angry on Marta's behalf at the end reminded me a lot of Original Sherlock Holmes, who is actually written as a fairly polite and very decent person.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:20 AM on December 2 [7 favorites]


There’s been some discussion about how progressive the film is.

NY Times
Remezcla
posted by pxe2000 at 9:28 AM on December 2 [3 favorites]


The references to the game of Go, a complex game in which you have to plan many moves ahead. Marta is the greatest player although she admits that she is simply trying to make a pretty pattern.

This echoes the entire movie in which Marta wins but not because she is trying to win. She is playing defensively of course (covering her tracks in the mud, running away from Blanc at the fire) but not seemingly with an outcome in mind.

The moments between her and Harlan are among the warmest in the movie. They are intimate friends. It is in clear contrast to his relations with his family which are much more strained. Harlan has never actually given his family anything it is clear - a bequest, their own money or assets, but has just dribbled out money to them. It is his money, not theirs. That much is clear.

What is less clear is what happened a week before in order to make Harlan change the will? What was in the will before that? It does seem like he was planning his own death what with preparing wills and cutting off ties with family members. But the death that arrived was not planned by him? Or was it? He seemed strangely calm when Marta was in a panic about the mixed-up bottles.
posted by vacapinta at 10:41 AM on December 2 [5 favorites]


One thing I thought was going to come up again before the climax of the film was Riki Lindhome's character Donna. Her part seemed suspiciously small, especially since the other family members all got more focus either through their interrogations or their movements over the night of the crime. Turns out she had at least one other scene, also featuring Raul Castillo, which was in a trailer but cut from the final film.
posted by bcwinters at 11:09 AM on December 2 [4 favorites]


There were a lot of little touches that made the setting seem very of the moment, without laying it on too thick: e.g. the Hamilton joke, the alt right nephew, Marta's heavily cracked phone screen. Even the joke about reading a tweet about a New Yorker article but not the actual article rang true to me.

And I also liked that the film trusted the intelligence of its viewers. I was bracing myself midway for some lengthy scenes of the family scheming how to screw Marta over. But the two brief conversations between Meg on the phone and Walt in the hallway basically said everything that needed to be said in an economical way.
posted by rollick at 11:42 AM on December 2 [9 favorites]


What is less clear is what happened a week before in order to make Harlan change the will?

It seemed like a few things had come to a head recently: he'd shown the evidence that he has of the affair, he had made the choice to take Walt off the publishing house, and he cut off Joni and Meg officially. It's less clear what Ransom did to finally get a cut-off. It seemed like over the past (let's say month?) things had come to a head with each Thrombey kid. I'd be curious to see if there's any further hints hidden away in the scenery when I rewatch it.
posted by codacorolla at 12:11 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


Thanks for that vacapinta - I was wondering if there was something I was missing due to being unfamiliar with Go.
posted by simonw at 5:54 PM on December 2


Thank you, pxe2000 for the link to the NY Times Op Ed by Monica Castillo. It gave me a lot to think about and I really appreciate the chance to reconsider aspects of the film in that light. I keep trying to write a longer response detailing my reaction and can't seem to really get the right words. So, I'm just saying thank you because it was a much needed perspective.
posted by acidnova at 6:40 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


Yeah, after reading that NYT article - I get why there's this impulse to keep a general shroud of secrecy around discussions of the film, but I do see how this movie could be way too close for a lot of immigrants, children of immigrants and Latinos right now, and I wish there was more of an awareness and communication about it in reviews. At least say that people will be watching a ton of microaggressions so they can be prepared - or decide that the movie might not be for them. That's what reviews are for, right?

Another review I read/listened to pointed out that Ana De Armas is the unknown in a cast of huge stars, and she's the stealth lead. Look at how little she's in this trailer. We're primed to like the rest of the cast, even when they're being horrible. Chris Evans is a charming human! Toni Colette is always amazing! Daniel Craig has an outrageous accent! Ana De Armas has to retain our emotional support against some formidable opponents.

I do like the fact that we get to see Marta at home - something we only see with Marta, Ransom, and Harlan. And Marta's the only home that doesn't seem ridiculous by design. It's sort of the anti-Agatha Christie movie.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:53 PM on December 2 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure there's anything particularly significant to the timing of the will change. Harlan was turning 85, mortality was staring him in the face, and the years of shitty behavior by his children reached a breaking point for him. He didn't know he'd be dying in a week, after all. I don't think he was seeking to die, but as he told Marta after the "accident', he basically had no real reason to keep on living (already as successful as he could possibly be in his field, family's a wash, etc.) and accepted going peacefully.

On another note, I appreciated how there wasn't a cynical twist at the end where it turned out Marta was actually a bad actor and had planned some or all of this. It's refreshing to just have a genuinely good character come out ahead in a movie these days. Marta won by being consistently kind and compassionate in the face of a lot of awfulness. For that reason, addressing a concern upthread, I suspect Marta would make arrangements for Harlan's mother to be kept comfortable for the rest of her life instead of just tossing her out.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:54 PM on December 2 [13 favorites]


I had a moment thinking that Marta could have planned it all and that the movie was unresolved, but fortunately the friend I saw it with pointed out that she pukes when she’s alone in the car, too. (I hate seeing people throw up and had blocked it from my awareness as much as possible.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:18 PM on December 2


The pictures of Richard having an affair look like what (Hollywood has primed me to believe) you get when you hire a private investigator. And cutting off Joni seemed like the result of doing an audit. Which would both tend to move the initiative for things back to Harlan.

I don't remember if they explained why Harlan had started taking morphine, but whatever it was might have pushed him to take stock of his life and his relationship with his family. Tying up everything on his 85th birthday because that's when he has an opportunity to talk to everyone in person. Plus, the drama.
posted by ckape at 8:44 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


IIRC, he was taking the morphine because of a shoulder issue? Maybe a fall?
posted by dinty_moore at 8:53 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


OVERINVESTED talks Knives Out, which they loved, and gets into some production talk, like how fast it was made and casting and how part of the reason Evans might have been on board is cause it;s filmed in basically his backyward
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


Just saw it and I loved it - so much fun. They could have suprise-twisted that any one of those characters was the bad guy and I would have bought it -- the scene where Marta is sitting side by side with Blanc after Ransom spilled the whole story, and he tells her to level with him, made me feel like I was at the top of the roller coaster and it was going to turn out that Marta and Blanc were in cahoots to steal the money.

I like that they left the ending a little open regarding Marta helping the family. I get the sense that she'll help with Meg's tuition...

I'd have to watch it again to confirm, but it sure sounded like what Marta said to Meg on the phone, "You won't have to worry about a thing. I'll take care of you. If you need anything, just let me know" was word-for-word exactly what Meg had said to her earlier in the film, just with "I" instead of "we" -- something that sounded good, but that you can't really believe.

Also Frank Oz (!!!)
posted by Mchelly at 2:43 PM on December 3 [3 favorites]


Let's all pause for a moment and think about how perfect Joni's hair was. So ready for Instagram. That hair wants to sell me essential oils.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:23 PM on December 3 [9 favorites]


Toni Collette was pitch perfect. "I'm not on twitter but you can DM me on instagram!"
posted by acidnova at 7:11 PM on December 3 [5 favorites]


oh god I pinged that as SUCH an ON THE NOSE character note.

Also all her outfits are so unsuitable for fall in New England. She has Santa Monica in her bones. It's like when Don Johnson shows up in that fleece zip-up and that's all you need to know he's a rich republican shithead or that Ransom's slightly tattered sweater is a huge WASP detail.

the costuming on this was SO GOOD. According to the New Yorker profile of Jamie Lee Curtis she gave the designer photos of her high powered, swelligant, real estate friend as inspiration for her character's bold suits.
posted by The Whelk at 9:07 PM on December 3 [11 favorites]


...made me feel like I was at the top of the roller coaster and it was going to turn out that Marta and Blanc were in cahoots to steal the money.

Yes! Not to take away from the movie as it is - and perhaps I've read too many mysteries - but I was ready for a bigger twist. Like, Harlan had faked his death or that Ransom was actually the good guy all along, taken into confidence by Harlan (he is the one most like Harlan, right?) to execute this plan and also help Marta.

Or that Harlan whisked Nana away somewhere and he has been there all along in her hat and glasses, chuckling over the whole thing.
posted by vacapinta at 10:23 PM on December 3 [2 favorites]


I was half-anticipating something in the Marta/Ransom direction (that ABSOLUTELY
would have happened if the movie were made a decade ago). I was very relieved/amused when the answer to "I hope he didn't cover for me" was ...no, he really really did not.
posted by grandiloquiet at 11:29 AM on December 4 [5 favorites]


I'm in total agreement with the praise in this thread, and I just want to add two things:

1. I would be ALL OVER a Benoit Blanc Cinematic Universe.

2. "Masturbating joylessly to photos of deer carcasses" is probably the most savage diss I have ever heard in my entire life.
posted by MrBadExample at 9:38 PM on December 4 [15 favorites]




Meanwhile, was anyone else constantly half-expecting Nana to say she saw something nasty in the woodshed?
posted by Mchelly at 11:18 AM on December 5 [4 favorites]


From dinty_moore's great link -- Sweater!
posted by Mchelly at 11:26 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


As someone who's still mad at The Murders in the Rue Morgue, I'm glad Harlan wasn't secretly alive and pulling the strings, or have supposedly dead middle child Neil be secretly alive and behind everything.
posted by ckape at 7:36 PM on December 5 [2 favorites]


This was outstanding. So glad to see M. Emmet Walsh in a bit part, too!
posted by whir at 10:16 PM on December 6 [1 favorite]


My take on the Marta-Harlan relationship is definitely opposite to what most reviews and comments here. She's definitely a good person, but they're not great friends. She's upset she got involved in a murder but placing all the flashbacks in context, and considering that Harlan also is as nasty as his family, she was pleasantly tolerating her employer. Harlan definitely took it to mean something much deeper, because it's not like he's surrounded by good people. And even to the end he was a master manipulator - he supposedly gets plot inspiration in a flash, and his haste makes sense since at that point he was counting on Marta inheriting everything. I think by the time the knife was in his hands he knew he was fine but he was also apparently not the sort to let a dramatic opportunity go to waste. Since I read it that way, I thought it's darkly funny that he attributed his actions with his family to Marta's good advice, when to my ears it sounds like something you say as a long-suffering person having to tolerate someone's drama. I think ppl underestimate how much she (and Fran) are fully aware of the class distance.

Watched it the second time! It still hangs together very well and it's great catching all the little things Ransom was doing to move things along (eg Marta's car, his disheveled hair).
posted by cendawanita at 9:14 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


This film had an A++ ending and really, the entire last twenty minutes were a non-stop delight. The social satire aspects were terrific and timely and the actors had a blast in a way that was contagious.

BUT... for my money, the pacing was way off in the first three quarters of the film and the jokes were too scattered and low key to prop it up. I would have loved to have seen a version script doctored by Mitchell Hurwitz that was about fifteen minutes shorter.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:56 AM on December 7 [1 favorite]


We just got home, and loved every single minute of it. The whole theater full of people did -- except for one older white guy, who loudly and bitterly complained to his wife during the credits that it was TERRIBLE and NOT FUNNY and the WORST THING HE EVER SAW. My theory... he's a Trump fan who didn't like how Trump fans were (very, very accurately) portrayed.
posted by sarcasticah at 7:20 PM on December 7 [3 favorites]


Fun movie but I kind of don't want to discuss it too much, lest it fall apart on examination.
posted by octothorpe at 2:19 PM on December 8 [1 favorite]


I re-read Murder on the Orient Express after seeing Branagh's movie and was amazed at how much racism Christie put in her books and how much Branagh and his screenwriter just worked around that issue and didn't really address it. So I liked the way that this film, which obviously owes a huge debt to her, turns all the racism and colonialism of those novels on it's head.
posted by octothorpe at 3:19 PM on December 8 [4 favorites]


Just got back from this, loved the hell out of it. The family is all horrible, none of them really know where Marta is from but they'll take care of her. Sure they will.

The sound of Blanc's coin flip was a lovely bit of foley work. Somebody watched that episode of Going Deep With David Rees about flipping a coin.

There was a lovely tweet I saw the other day about how the grips spent a lot of time on the lighting rigs so the reflections in the glasses would be right.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:32 PM on December 8 [5 favorites]


During the movie I found myself distracted by who exactly Michael Shannon sounded like. It was eating at me, literally keeping me from being able to pay attention in his scenes. Then it hit me: Patton Oswalt. If you re-watch please listen for Oswalt-sounds any time Michael Shannon puts some intensity into his speech.
posted by komara at 8:24 PM on December 8 [2 favorites]


This was outstanding. So glad to see M. Emmet Walsh in a bit part, too!

When Mrs Schnitzengrubnen and I were watching this, we were convinced Walsh had died like a year ago. But I see on IMDB that not only is he alive, he was playing a role originally intended for the late, great Ricky Jay.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:12 AM on December 9


This is Walsh's 50th year in film and somehow he's always looked old.
posted by octothorpe at 10:49 AM on December 9


the primroses were over: "He makes a comment to Marta shortly before cutting his own throat about knowing the difference between prop knives and real ones (granted, this pays out at the end with a different character mistaking one for the other, but so what!)"

Hang on. I thought that he was literally talking about Ransom not knowing the difference between a prop knife and a real one in that scene (like a Chekov's gun, but in dialogue), not himself. That's why when Ransom grabs the knife at the end, I knew how that would turn out.

Meanwhile, speaking of hints, one thing that I wonder about whether it was intentional or not was Harlan's reaction -- or rather, non-reaction -- to the "overdose". Like, I don't know that much about drugs and pharmacology but I do know that IV drugs are supposed to hit you way, way faster than stuff taken orally or injected intra-muscularly because, well, they're deposited directly into your bloodstream. So, when Marta says that she accidentally gave him 33 times the normal dose of morphine and that he'll be dead in 10 minutes, I was thinking: "dead in 10 minutes probably means unconscious in 5 minutes and incoherent in 2 minutes... he should definitely be slurring his words and slowing down by now... he doesn't have nearly enough time to come up with this plan (while jotting stuff down in his notebook), convey the plan to Marta, and overcome her objections... so somebody must have switched the vials or something..."

In any case, I was reminded of a story that one of my friends tells of having The Sixth Sense sort of spoiled in the same way when he went to see it with a friend who knew about guns and such. When Bruce Willis gets shot by Donnie Wahlberg, his friend leans over and says "no way he survives that, no one can survive getting shot by that kind of gun at that close range".
posted by mhum at 11:48 AM on December 9 [1 favorite]


There's the briefest glimpse of a photo of Ricky Jay in the Walsh scene, which was a nice nod.

I really enjoyed this movie! (Though it's bananas that the sharp, spry 85-year-old was under a nurse's care while his mom wandered about the House of Thrombey -- bought in the '80s! -- at all hours, unattended.) You kind of knew Evans would turn out to be a heel, simply because he's in it but doesn't even appear in real time until halfway through the runtime. It's crime-drama-of-the-week casting.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:48 AM on December 9 [2 favorites]


I just want to say that the scene in which Blanc is describing his method to Marta by borrowing the imagery from the title of a novel is the hardest my wife or I have laughed in a theater all year.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 12:09 PM on December 9 [3 favorites]


Well I loved it. I've just seen it. I was a bit thrown off at the beginning, when we see the house, because I'd forgotten it takes place in America. I was thinking, hang on that's not an old house - but it's not an arts-and-crafts movement neo-gothic house either - and those windows are modern - what? Of course it's American Gothic.

I've been in a rubbish mood all weekend, the glossiness of the trailers and the adverts made it worse, and then the film began and bang! hilarious from the very first moment. Every clue underlined and every joke badum-tished. What a relief, actually, to watch a plot so witty and sarky and good-hearted unfold against such an appalling collection of antagonists. I felt like clapping at the end too. Maybe about a quarter of the way in I was wondering, is this it? but it really took off.

There only about 10 other people in the cinema and I didn't hardly hear anyone else laughing. So strange.

Since people are discussing the way the knitwear shows character and class, here's a photo of the now preppy Aran being knitted in its original habitat. or maybe it's Shetand I dunno
posted by glasseyes at 12:13 PM on December 9 [1 favorite]


I thought that he was literally talking about Ransom not knowing the difference between a prop knife and a real one in that scene (like a Chekov's gun, but in dialogue), not himself. That's why when Ransom grabs the knife at the end, I knew how that would turn out.

Yep, mhum, I think he was talking about other people, maybe even specifically Ransom, which is why I said the comment paid off later. But I am grasping at straws to support my conspiracy theory of Harlan's survival!
posted by the primroses were over at 12:47 PM on December 9


the primroses were over: Yep, mhum, I think he was talking about other people, maybe even specifically Ransom, which is why I said the comment paid off later. But I am grasping at straws to support my conspiracy theory of Harlan's survival!"

I'd have to rewatch to be sure, but in my recollection, Harlan says it during the segment where he says how much he sees himself in Ransom except that Ransom hasn't had to do anything for himself so he doesn't even have the basic common sense to tell a prop from a real knife.

Meanwhile, I also entertained the idea of a fake death, at least at first. However, what kind of stripped that away for me is how Rian Johnson establishes pretty early that all the flashback sequences are pretty much true depictions of what happened and aren't skewed like in a Rashomon situation. Given how idiosyncratic, self-centered, and self-interested most of the characters are, I can imagine how it would be extremely tempting to make each flashback reflect their particular viewpoints & biases but then it would have turned an already pretty tricky movie into a real convoluted mess, I think.
posted by mhum at 1:29 PM on December 9


He raises the possibility that the memories might be flawed with the debate in in Marta's mind about whether Harlan said to turn off the road before or after the statue in order to evade the security camera. I think it's clear that the flashbacks are what each person honestly believes is true, though.

The flashbacks are interesting, because it means that we have more information than Blanc. I think that's what I mean about halfway to Columbo. Though that's not a criticism, in fact it made the whole thing more enjoyable to me.
posted by Grangousier at 4:46 PM on December 9 [2 favorites]


I also noticed a discrepancy on the interview flashback scenes to Harlan blowing out his candles - each person remembered themselves next to him.
posted by bq at 6:22 PM on December 9 [7 favorites]


That was when I knew I'm going to enjoy this movie (Walt vs Linda by Harlan's side blowing the candles), and then followed by the half second too long on Don Johnson's face after Richard's interview and he went for the hammiest of guilty looks, lol.
posted by cendawanita at 7:10 PM on December 9 [2 favorites]


I especially enjoyed the black eye that mysteriously appeared on Don Johnson in the last shots

Was this not from his scuffle with Walt?

Saw this yesterday, absolutely loved it. Approximately every twenty minutes I found myself thinking “this is not the movie I thought it was going to be!” which is great. And I absolutely loved that Marta won be being so good and so pure that she can’t even lie convincingly (though I guess she can tamper with evidence).

Question: I loved the bit that everyone in the family had a different idea of where Marta was from, but did the movie ever actually tell us the correct answer?
posted by ejs at 7:49 PM on December 9


Was this not from his scuffle with Walt?

It didn't appear until after Linda revealed the invisible ink on the letter from Harlan (the one that said that Richard was cheating on her).
posted by firechicago at 8:01 PM on December 9 [3 favorites]


ejs, I don't think so (though I may have missed it in one of Blanc's well-attended soliloquies). In real life, actresses Ana de Armas (Marta) and Marlene Forte (Marta's mother) were born in Cuba.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:53 PM on December 9 [1 favorite]


When I watch this film again I think it will be when it's streaming, so I can switch on subtitles and also rewind whenever I miss a bit or want to check something. Or heck it I could just pop into the cinema tomorrow. Watching it cheered me up no end because currently we're drowning in an incredibly slick and practiced media environment where honesty and caring are 'naive' if not obsolete or radically dangerous qualities. Or all of those.

About where Marta is from, I don't think it's so much that any of them have an idea about where her roots are, they just none of them give a damn. She comes from the generic place the help comes from, and kudos to them for letting the girl enter the house through the front door.

I love that the McGuffin - she's sick if she tells a lie - is so ridiculous and that the detective's accent is exagerated so preposterously - just like Poirot's. Although it appears the accent was accurate (if exagerated)? Lots of the Brit reviews make a point of saying how unconvincing the accent is. Doughnuts of artifice and double bluff within doughnuts of double bluff and artifice.

In the restaurant scene where Marta tells Ransom what happened the song playing is Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown, which was all over the charts in 1974 and simple and catchy enough that I knew all the words then. Hearing it come up in the background plunged me into the mood of the song all while straining to remember it. I think it's a calculated effect: the song is hauntingly memorable but hasn't had much of a footprint so many listeners would recognise it vaguely but struggle to recall it all I think. I did just in time for the end of the scene capped off by the last line: Sometimes I think it's a sin When I feel like I'm winnin' when I'm losin' again. Masterful use of music and lyrics IMO, echoing the gameplaying/ ambiguous antagonists theme.
(Or maybe it's played all the time in the States and the point wasn't subtle at all shrug emoji)
posted by glasseyes at 5:17 AM on December 10 [5 favorites]


(Or maybe it's played all the time in the States and the point wasn't subtle at all shrug emoji)

I've never heard of that song before, so consider it subtle.

The not letting the audience know where Marta's family is from bothered me a little, to be honest. I'm not ready to say it's not important, because it's not like all Latin American countries are interchangeable. It's forcing the audience down to the family's level in a cheap way.

The other part I do feel conflicted on is how Meg's entitlement for the money is equated with the siblings and Ransom's feelings of entitlement - but Meg is still a dependent. I went through the 'parents are shitty with money so I might have to drop out of college' ride a few times with friends - one really did have to legally emancipate herself and reapply; another's mom went through money like water and raided the tuition funds; someone's dad kept the tuition payment hostage as a threat to their mom; my tuition was fine but my parents cut everything else off after I came out, so there was one memorable English class where I burst into tears after the professor added one more book to the syllabus. It sucked! This doesn't excuse Meg turning on Marta the second she's threatened, but I do feel like her situation is different than her mother's - it's not like Meg was the one embezzling funds.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:17 AM on December 10 [1 favorite]


I think that at the point in the movie where Joni's called on the carpet, the double-dipping's been going on for four years. Why does it automatically follow that Meg then has to drop out -- would it have been so awful for a woman in her early 20s to take out a loan for her last year/years of college? (Answer: by Thrombey entitlement standards, yes; student loan debt is for other (poorer) people.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:01 AM on December 10


Sorry, dinty_moore -- I don't think I was clear in the post above. I'm only talking about the internal logic of the film, not the real-life difficulties you, your friends, and an awful lot of people went (& go) through.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:05 AM on December 10


Why does it automatically follow that Meg then has to drop out -- would it have been so awful for a woman in her early 20s to take out a loan for her last year/years of college?

That's . . . not how it works. Applying for financial aid mid-semester is tricky and not likely to happen - even taking out additional loans can have penalties attached. But let's say it's only one year, no financial aid - and the $100,000 covers tuition, room, board, textbooks, ect so it's only that $100,000. According to this student interest calculator, paying back the minimum $500 a month with the average 5.8 percent interest rate will mean that Meg's loans would be paid off in about 60 years. Which actually does seem like a lot to ask of a college student? Dropping out and then either reapplying without having to deal with her mother's financial mismanagement or just to a less expensive school (and still dealing with a more moderate set of loans) seems like the better option. Which might not be the end of the world - I know people who had to do just that, they graduated later but life went on - but it's still a pretty large consequence for Meg, considering at that point she was not at fault.

Again, not actually a reason for Meg to turn on Marta, but Meg's situation is legitimately kind of shitty for reasons outside of her control. If there was more of an indication that Meg knew what Joni was doing, that would be different (and it's possible I missed that).
posted by dinty_moore at 11:51 AM on December 10


considering at that point she was not at fault

True, but she still sold out Marta's family to protect herself. She and Marta had what appeared to be a good relationship. Instead of trusting that Marta would help her or even considering figuring out an alternate plan (lots of people without a wealthy grandfather do it), she sold Marta's family out at the first opportunity.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:17 PM on December 10 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that it wasn't shitty for Meg to turn on Marta (the next sentence after the one you quoted says that, even). I just think her situation is different than her mother's or the rest of the family - all of them proved their shittiness before they were cut off; Meg was cut off because of her mother's actions and then proved her shittiness.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:26 PM on December 10


Right, in her case instead of having her shittiness shown to the viewer before it was shown after. Still the same entitlement.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:32 PM on December 10


Ehh, not really? I'm talking specifically about financial entitlement, not like white privilege. When it comes to having tuition money and financial aid applications, most colleges expect that if you're a traditionally aged student, you're still a dependent unless you've taken legal steps otherwise. So when if you find yourself in the situation where your family either refuses to pay or is unable to manage money, your ability to get financial aid still is based on their income. Joni is positioned as someone who probably looks like they have a lot of income on paper but doesn't actually have a lot of assets or the ability to save enough to pay for any of the schooling, so Meg is going to face the consequences of her financial mismanagement. Nobody legally actually expects Meg to be financially independent, the way one could reasonably expect Ransom or Joni or Walt to be financially independent.

Again, not defending any of Meg's actions here. But it's more reasonable for a college student to expect her family to pay her tuition to the extent that they are able than it is for a middle aged man to expect his father to employ him, or Ransom to get money for doing whatever he does. It's still feeling entitled to money that's not theirs, technically, but there's a different level to it.
posted by dinty_moore at 1:05 PM on December 10


Meg was very clearly the most likable of all of the despicable family members.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:16 PM on December 10 [1 favorite]


^most likable, most upset Marta was not invited to the funeral, seemingly the most enlightened (Cousin Nazi derides her as an SJW), so her quick turnabout is the most startling.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:42 PM on December 10


most upset Marta was not invited to the funeral

I hear she was outvoted!
posted by MoonOrb at 1:55 PM on December 10 [2 favorites]


(Or maybe it's played all the time in the States and the point wasn't subtle at all shrug emoji)

Not very often, but it was a pretty big hit a loooong time ago, and there wasn't a lot of music in the film, so it did stand out for me when it came on. But mostly because it also has the lyrics (maybe even the chorus?) "You better take care... if I find you been creeping 'round my back stairs..." which I thought was a really nice touch in light of Marta's actions on the night in question.
posted by Mchelly at 2:50 PM on December 10 [3 favorites]


It's still feeling entitled to money that's not theirs, technically, but there's a different level to it.

I mean, I guess? I don't mean like white privilege either, just that she ends up revealing herself to be as entitled as the rest of them.

To me it doesn't matter that she starts off 'better.' She was set up to be the most likable purely so her quick turnabout was the most startling: so you feel bad for her initially, and think she might actually be good, but no, she's as bad as the rest. I'm not sure why dramatic effect requires a deep dive into how real people pay for college.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:58 PM on December 10


The point was that I have a hard time being like 'how dare Meg expect that her family give her money for college' when that's what the federal government expects to happen. That's what I mean by financial entitlement. Not anything about Meg's actions, which I will repeat were horrible. Being put in an unfortunate situation by your family isn't an excuse to put someone in an extremely shitty situation in defence of your family.

The rest of the adult characters 100% have no right to expect money from anyone during the will reading, or when Harlan cut them off. I'm okay with Meg being put on the same ethical footing as the adults, just not the same financial one. I'd feel differently if she had at least known about the double dipping or if she was in grad school.
posted by dinty_moore at 4:27 PM on December 10


I personally don't see the conflict? Meg doesn't need to be textually bad when the movie starts but it showed when push comes to shove. She doesn't need to be shown as bad and complicit in knowing her mum is double dipping. She shows it when a little bit of hardship presented itself and instead of the other options we've talked about here, she chose to close ranks. Now, is that a moment of weakness? Maybe. But if they're all archetypes then Meg to me is the white feminist one. All that 'sjw' education, all the sniping at the Nazi cousin, and yet?
posted by cendawanita at 6:12 PM on December 10 [4 favorites]


To put another way, yeah, a young person like Meg shouldn't be faulted for expecting her family to pay for her education, but that's not what the movie is judging.
posted by cendawanita at 6:14 PM on December 10 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if Meg is supposed to be a perpetual student, since no one knows her major and how long she's been in college is just a vague "years". That would keep in with the theme of Harlan being disappointed in the family for leeching off him instead of making something of their own. (of course it's also perfectly likely that it's vague because nobody in the family bothers to keep track)

I also wouldn't be surprised if Joni just told her that Grandpa is cutting off tuition without mentioning the final check (or the checks before that).
posted by ckape at 6:51 PM on December 10 [2 favorites]


Meg told the family soon after the reading that her friend Marta's mom was undocumented, for leverage. (And not long at all after pushing the family to speak with Marta about "taking care" of her in Harlan's absence, and then, post-reading, speaking to Marta herself about her own tuition; Meg couldn't have faith in her "like family" friend.) That's main judge-worthy bit.

Speaking of judgment: yes, it's just a movie, and a murder-mystery trope, but I was pretty peeved that Blanc could go on and on and ON praising Marta's decency and virtue when he knew he was psychologically torturing her for days, starting approximately 5 minutes after meeting her. (In yet another power play from some seemingly-affable white person with a 'higher station' in that house, he forced her into the Watson role.) He's lucky he didn't wind up with another suicide in the case.

(Full disclosure, I was annoyed with Blanc early on, for drawing Marta out into the cold to talk to her; she's in a sweater [and those thin canvas sneakers], while Blanc himself and the local flatfoots are wearing overcoats.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 6:53 PM on December 10


To put another way, yeah, a young person like Meg shouldn't be faulted for expecting her family to pay for her education, but that's not what the movie is judging.

But if part of the conversation is about how inherited wealth breeds financial entitlement (this money rightfully ours/we worked for it and ignoring that it's all inheritance), it is part of what the movie is judging them for. Not in its entirety, but the entire reason why Harlan cut them all out of the will in the first place was because they were too dependent on his wealth to make something on their own. Linda thought that she had built everything from scratch - when it was with a one million dollar loan. Walt was never able to get out of his father's shadow. Joni was embezzling from him, and Ransom never had any reason to do anything with his life. The last person he explicitly cuts off is Meg - I forget if he gives a reason separate from Joni's to cut her out. So I was really unclear if I was supposed to be judging Meg for her greed (in wanting her college education paid for) along with the rest of the adults, and honestly - the responses here seem kind of muddled on that, too.

(Totally okay judging her for turning on Marta, which is horrible! She's generally worthy of being judged harshly! I'm specifically talking about her feeling entitled to the money.)

This was honestly not that big of a deal (though please, do not encourage your loved ones to take out $100,000 in student loans for a year at a liberal arts college, that is not a normal or a healthy amount of debt). It's something that, thinking back, didn't stick as well as I liked, so I'm feeling conflicted about it.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:22 PM on December 10


Not in its entirety, but the entire reason why Harlan cut them all out of the will in the first place was because they were too dependent on his wealth to make something on their own.

Totally agree. A more entrepreneurial* mindset wouldn't necessarily take the bent Meg took for instance. It's also telling Meg wasn't seen to quiz her mum, but she's also in shock with the rest of her family.

But as I was also saying above elsewhere, Harlan is also as nasty as the family he's cultivated.

*I mean this in that go-getting attitude, not as in 'starting a business'
posted by cendawanita at 8:08 PM on December 10


So I was really unclear if I was supposed to be judging Meg for her greed (in wanting her college education paid for) along with the rest of the adults, and honestly - the responses here seem kind of muddled on that, too.

Meg was cut off indirectly, because Joni was double dipping, not because of anything Meg was doing. FWIW my interpretation was that Joni had already extracted enough money to pay for Meg for the next few years, so Harlan expected her to pay. Joni telling Meg "of course I can't afford to pay for you from my own pocket" struck me as totally manipulative and greedy.

I don't think we're necessarily "supposed" to judge people based on Harlan cutting them off--he was capricious and a bit of a bully and the best thing about him is he wasn't his kids. I think it's deliberately up to the viewer to chew over levels of despicability, which is why there's no consensus on Meg here. (And I could say a few nice things about Linda too.)
posted by mark k at 9:59 PM on December 10


If Meg didn't realize her mom wasn't actually supporting the family lifestyle as an Instagrammer, it's because Meg didn't want to.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:50 AM on December 11


Sure, Meg knew they were subsidized by some of their exceedingly wealthy relatives. Did she know the subsidy was obtained by felonious fraud? No. Even Harlan didn't know that.
posted by mark k at 7:41 AM on December 11


the best thing about him is he wasn't his kids.

I'm not so sure. When Walt intimidates Marta in the back hall of her apartment building, he says that the Thrombey resources ($, lawyers, influence) could be marshaled to help Mom Cabrera's legal problems. Marta responds that since those resources are now hers, she'll draw on them herself.

Post-movie reflection: when Harlan was alive, with that same near-magical, monied ability to fix things and knowing full well about this situation (think of your mother, Marta, he implores, as he's cooking up the hare-brained scheme after the medication non-mix-up), he didn't do anything to help. Yes, he changed his will to leave Marta his fortune, but she had no idea. Even if he had informed her at some point, given Nana's indeterminate vintage Harlan's natural death could have been more than a decade off. (Plus, he's got great nursing care.) Meanwhile, Marta's mom's precarity wears on.

Another nice detail, about how feelings can color recollection: when Ransom's slamming out of the house after the meeting in the study, on the night of the birthday celebration, in his mom's version of events he hands a piece of cake to Nana on his way.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:50 AM on December 11 [2 favorites]


I don't think we're necessarily "supposed" to judge people based on Harlan cutting them off--he was capricious and a bit of a bully and the best thing about him is he wasn't his kids. I think it's deliberately up to the viewer to chew over levels of despicability, which is why there's no consensus on Meg here. (And I could say a few nice things about Linda too.)

That's not a bad point - I hadn't thought about it too much, but Harlan does seem like a bit of an ass (albeit a more charming one than any of his progeny), and is sort of responsible for how the family turned out. He meddles with the business, meaning that Walt never actually gets any experience running his own company, he spoils and indulges Joni's absurd vanity project, he uses blackmail against Rich instead of coming clean to his own daughter about the infidelity, he seems utterly disinterested in his Nazi grandson, and despite his closeness to Ransom (going so far as to actually hire him at one point) still doesn't seem to have a positive impact on him.

The point about Marta is also pretty well taken - despite her being clearly one of his favorite people, he never sees fit to help her while he's alive. His inheritance itself seems less motivated by his affinity for Marta, than his desire to spite his family.

I didn't really think about that after watching, and mostly felt positively about Harlan, so this is an interesting discussion.
posted by codacorolla at 5:54 PM on December 11 [2 favorites]


I loved seeing "doughnut truth" in there-- and improved since Nabokov apparently made it up. Or maybe he took an actual schoolyard saying. With him, in Ada, it was "Only the truth, and the whole truth, with a hole it the truth." Which is just kind of blatant bullshit and contradictory. But Benoit softens it and twists it around. Making a cruller?
posted by BibiRose at 4:57 AM on December 12


I knew the drugs had been switched as soon as the camera did a dramatic zoom-in on the medical bag before anything happened with it, so the whole movie became a delicious exercise in

1. how long until Marta confesses, and
2. how long until they figure out the confessed accidental murder was caused by the actual intentional murder

I loved the Rashomon effect on the audience, and the deft illustration of both lies and half-truths and misrememberings and after-the-fact whitewashings.

Oh, and fuck Meg (one of my favorite plots). As soon as her material comforts are even slightly threatened she immediately sides with the Nazi and the Trump voters. OOF, what an incredibly accurate story we keep seeing re-told in real life. She's not worse than her family, but it really makes the hopeful audience feel like a pack of rubes for thinking she might be any different from them. Fantastic reveal. Seeing the "ally" turn on a dime is a special kind of horrible-- and Marta numbly comforting her when Meg cries about realizing she accidentally did a racism? PEAK white feminism.

There were lots of clever reveals, but "Hugh/You" was the one that really impressed me. Homonyms that are also about classism! Glorious.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:09 AM on December 13 [5 favorites]


Hugh / You was one of the twists that didn't work for me; it didn't feel realistic.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:30 PM on December 13 [1 favorite]


mhum: one thing that I wonder about whether it was intentional or not was Harlan's reaction -- or rather, non-reaction -- to the "overdose"....

That was a point for me too! I was like "how is this person even awake right now?!" when Harlan started going dialoguing about the Perfect Crime. But I'm so used to TV shows and movies riding roughshod over medical facts (like CPR = three gentle pats on the chest) that I just ignored it as a genre convention. So it was deliciously meta when it turned out that was the key to the whole thing.

Though I am still skeptical of Marta instinctively knowing which vial was which -- maybe that would have been better with a brief closeup of her picking up one, then setting it down and picking up the other. It's a fairy tale twist, like the vomiting. In some ways, the whole movie is a feel-good fairy tale where the Bad Guys get their comeuppance and the meek shall inherit the earth, or at least, a 1985 Queen Anne Revival built by a Pakistani developer.

But do you really think the Thrombeys are not going to leverage their network -- those intangible Ivy League connections -- to challenge the will and make Marta's life hell? Part of their privilege and entitlement comes from generational wealth, but a lot of it comes from the belief -- often borne out in reality -- that the rich/educated/WASP class that generates judges and lawyers will close ranks against an interloper like Marta. We see the family close ranks during the movie; I've seen the class close ranks in real life. It's rarely overt, but there's a lot of unspoken assumptions and microaggressions that tell people like Marta "You don't really belong here."

I think the movie does attempt to deconstruct the fairy tale a bit, but I'm not sure it succeeds. As Iris Gambol and codacorolla point out, both Harlan and Benoit -- the Good Guys, definitely have audience sympathy -- manipulate Marta and add to her emotional distress when they could have helped. Benoit is obviously perceptive, what with that bit about the blood spattered shoe, and like Marta he is an outsider to the 1%-ers, but he still uses Marta to lead him to the real killer.

Even the argument on here about whether Meg is really that bad hinges on whether it's a fair assumption on her part to have family wealth pay for her education i.e. for her entrance into the privileged class. For the record, I think Meg is a mindless hypocrite who "just didn't think" before blurting out that Marta's mother was undocumented. (I've met a lot of Megs.)

Still, that ending shot of Marta looking down on the thrombus of Thrombeys with the "My House" mug!
posted by basalganglia at 8:08 AM on December 14 [2 favorites]


I'm still with Benoit. He doesn't actually have any clue what happened until the end of the film. What could he have done that would've helped Marta more than finding the real bad actor? His first impression was that of a woman with blood-splattered shoes lying to him...by omission if not with active, nauseating falsehood. He stuck with her long enough to conclude that she didn't murder Harlan, but that someone else probably did. He still didn't know how she came into play. When he figured it out, he intervened on her behalf pretty quickly! Benoit wasn't motivated by altruism -- this was a hired job, and one that he clearly found very interesting -- but I don't have any complaints about his behavior.

The thought of a decade-long battle over the will is very depressing, so I've chosen to believe that Harlan put his assets in a trust to avoid probate and Marta basically inherits everything immediately. That means Marta at least would have access to the millions of dollars required to fend off legal challenge -- and might even choose to pay them a little to go away. (The remaining family is in a bad position to wage this battle, even with class favors. Walt either just lost his job or now works for Marta; Ransom is under arrest for murder and arson; Joni was stealing money from Harlan and they have proof of it; Linda might be having a divorce soon and definitely will have a son on trial.)
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:33 AM on December 14 [2 favorites]


Enjoyable, but the family actually felt very poorly fleshed out. Members are described as falling into particular tropes but aren't really given the space to inhabit them on camera. Most notably Ransom, who felt weirdly underdeveloped as a louche playboy. I can imagine taking out a good essay on the social commentary of all of this and why it adds up to a great movie, but as an experience it felt like too much of it was left off screen. (Definitely an interesting film to juxtapose with Parasite, though.)
posted by Going To Maine at 4:55 PM on December 15 [1 favorite]


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