Knives Out ~ The Review

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Knives Out

starring Don Johnson, Jamie Lee Curtis, LaKeith Stanfield, and Daniel Craig

written and directed by Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi). 

(spoiler alert)

Knives Out is a cautionary tale for two groups of people: first,  multimillionaires who, on a whim, play a cat and mouse game I will call “Disinheritance”; and, second, the offspring of multimillionaires who stand to inherit the fortune of their multimillionaire relative.  Crime novelist and collector of automata (or moving dolls), Harlan Thrombey, multimillionaire played by Christopher Plummer, has been “murdered”.  Detective Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig who tries his best to out southern a southern drawl) appears on the scene with his team, Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan) to investigate matters.

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Harlan Thrombey, Patriarch

Knives Out is a captivating whodunnit filled with the usual twists and turns, and hidden secrets lurking about the nooks and crannies of the isolated Thrombey mansion (filmed at the Ames Mansion, a 20-room historic site located at Massachusetts’ Borderland State Park). If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, then Knives Out is your movie.

As with most dead who have taken care of their business here on earth, from the grave, Thrombey wields that four-corner document to upend the economic status of his relatives. At the reading of the Will by the family’s attorney Alan Stevens (Frank Oz), the inheritance of each relative is cut to pieces and thrown to Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), the young, unsuspecting Latinx home care nurse to patriarch Thrombey. Yes, the entire fortune: money, mansion, and publishing business.

Even though they have been subsisting on the kindness of Patriarch Thrombey while he was alive, the characters are worth caring about. Each actor interprets the patriarch’s betrayal with seething disbelief. All eyes turn to Marta, and you might feel a bit of a nick and cut from the “knife” of Thrombey’s Last Will and Testament but coupled with anger as the family, desperate to reclaim(?) the estate, threaten Marta with the deportation of her mother, who is in the United States illegally.

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On one hand, I refuse to praise Thrombey’s change of heart. Thrombey allowed his relatives and their offspring to live with him and nourish family ties on average of fifty years. Along the way, he provided them a lavish lifestyle of privilege and pleasure on average for fifty years, and on a whim he imagines them jumping to it and earning a living? Confess to indiscretions? Please! Yes, they are dysfunctional but he shares the greater responsibility of every dysfunctional dynamic formed within the confines of that mansion. As the powerful patriarch, he determined to play with people’s lives.

Even more egregious, his Last Will and Testament endangered the lives of Marta, her mother, and her sister. What he ultimately commits in front of Marta in his study causes her extreme trauma and that she question her nursing skills.

On the other hand, there seems to be an overarching aspect of the story. Perhaps when it all comes down to it, Johnson suggests it is the blood, sweat, and toil of the immigrant population that made possible for the Harlan Thrombeys of the world to garner the wealth and privilege they enjoy. Let that marinate.

 

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Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis)

On another, I would surmise that Knives Out is a filmic lesson in expectations held by those who have trust funds pending or a rich relative who has been maintaining familial lifestyles with an allowance, or those who are in line to inherit anything. As I viewed Knives Out, the first stanza of Alice Walker’s poem “Expect Nothing” came to mind:

Expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely
Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

… because at any moment, your kinsman/woman could pull knives out and slash your every assumption, laughing all the way to the grave.℘

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Watch for in-depth Film Television & More reviews and commentary from The Dreher Report.  In the meantime, Catch a film. Watch some TV. Share the Popcorn. Feed Your Soul!

 

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1 Comment

  1. 25+ Knives Out Reviews – the Massachusetts Mansion Used in Other Films – Movies, Movies, Movies

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