‘Knives Out’: Outstanding Hilarity ☆☆☆☆☆

Only at the end of “Knives Out,” will you fully be able to appreciate the casting. Movie-goers of this era, at least, will be bringing in their own red herrings although there are moments of real misdirection in Rian Johnson’s witty script which often lets you see a particular incident more than once and through someone else’s eyes. You’ll have to decipher who is the reliable narrator of events. If you love a mystery, you’ll love this one.

Johnson transplants that murder mystery in a mansion whodunit to the United States. Shot in Massachusetts, or the closest thing the US has to England–New England, his Agatha Christie-inspired movie is about a murder mystery novelist Harlan Thrombey, who built his wealth and empire from writing novels, despite his utter disgust with TV and movies. He won’t allow his novels to be adapted, much to the frustration of his youngest son, Walt (Michael Shannon), the CEO of his publishing company. Walt’s wife Donna (Riki Lindhome) lingers helplessly in the background. Their “Nazi” son, Jacobe (Jaeden Martell) , has a better relationship with his phone than his parents or any of his relatives.

Harlan has just celebrated his 85th birthday, but is found dead the next morning. Is it suicide or murder? Private detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig with a Southern accent stolen from Shelby Foote) is hired by an anonymous concerned party to investigate, but the local law enforcement are already on the scene: laconic Detective Lieutenant Elliott (Lakeith Stanfield) and  overly enthusiastic Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan). Blanc at first lingers in the background with an occasional high note to draw attention to himself.

Harlan has three kids. His eldest daughter Linda Drysdale (Jamie Lee Curtis) works in real estate with the support of her husband, Richard Drysdale (Don Johnson). Their son, Hugh Ransom Drysdale (Chris Evans), is a playboy supported by his grandfather’s largess.

Harlan’s second son, Neil, is long dead, but his widow, Joni (Toni Collette), hangs on to the family by her talons and otherwise focuses on being a lifestyle guru and social media influencer. Her daughter Meg (Katherine Langford) is in college, wit tuition paid by her grandfather.

As you never know who to trust, the help is also under suspicion although we know the butler didn’t do it because there isn’t one. Marta (Ana de Armas) is Harlan’s nurse and only friend. She plays Goh with him every evening, but lives with her mother and sister. The housekeeper Fran (Edi Patterson) is also somehow involved. The only person that doesn’t fall under suspicion is Harlan’s mother, Great Nana (K. Callan), because she’s too old and although she is well dressed and seemingly able to function without a nurse or other attendant.

There is a will; it will be read. The question is who knew about Harlan’s new will and was it motive for murder. You’ll want to see this more than once and that “Game of Thrones” throne won’t have a particular significance, except knives will be used but not all will result in certain death.

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