Results 1 to 1 of 1

Thread: GLASS ONION: A KNIVES OUT MYSTERY (Rian Johnson 2022)

Threaded View

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area





    The new sequel to Knives Out brought a good crowd by pandemic standards on day four, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Regular chortles and chuckles from the audience showed people, some, anyway, were getting the knowingness, the cleverness, and the cunning reveals they desired, a continuation of what was surprising the first time, this time expected. That's a different kind of pleasure, though, isn't it? For a sceptic this is a movie that, while glossy and more or less entertaining, suffers too much from bloat in one area and shrinkage in another. It strays too far from the mystery novel sources the original 2019 Knives Out cleverly expanded upon - into the world of blockbusters.

    Johnson's first elaborate takeoff on an Agatha Christie sealed-in murder mystery tale already seemed overdone, but a new audience wanted it. It was terribly pleased at its cleverness, but it had charm. It kept you on your toes. Unless you were a pro at mystery-solving (like Daniel Craig's entertaining incarnation of the instantly iconic ace detective with the dandy clothes and the Southern drawl, Benoit Blunt), it kept you guessing. This time is was harder to care, harder even to see actual crime in this spun-out world of an unappealing, unnecessarily rich man.

    The bloat is material; the shrinkage is human.

    The success of Knives Out (#1) led to Netflix's lavish sponsorship. Money was spent this time, and spent to show. This perhaps led to the choice of a central character who is very rich, a self-satisfied tech billionaire called Miles Bron (is the name "Elon" or "Musk" to be found in those letters?), who has bought a Greek island. Cool, eh? Well, not much use is made of it. Except that it has a posh pad on it, a garish, geometrically intricate pleasure dome that's sort of a giant glass onion, maybe; that's what he calls it. It's a big glass dome, anyway.

    The island is a two-hour boat ride away for the guests, a group of Miles' former cronies who're going to be the suspects or the victims or whatever. He has invited them to participate in a pretty weird ritual: to solve the mystery of his murder, which has not yet happened. In fact he greets them at the boat when they arrive. (There are two unexpected people, who're going to be the most important characters.)

    There are lots of eat-the-rich dramas lately, and they're certainly justified. We live in a time of despicable and much too well heeled rich people who run our world and sneer at us. They use social media as their toy and smash it for fun. Some of the mockery of manners of the rich embodied in Miles Bron - maybe this is true - is hard to distinguish from mockery of touchy-feelie space-age hippies. Indeed the backstory reveals that when Miles hung out with this posse whom he now calls, with rich-person pretension in a well-worn contemporary buzz-word, "The Disruptors," he had long hair and was sort of a hippie. Glass Onion, being a movie, and therefore very visual, rather falls into the trap of some other satires of the rich, of making the trappings of wealth a little too awesome for one to altogether despise. After all it's all stuff that looks good in a cineplex. But the Glass Onion is a place of garish poshlust that isn't even funny.

    Miles' living room, or gallery, or whatever it is, (Maureen Lee Lenker in Entertainment recently called "the ostentatious atrium at the heart of the action"), is decorated in an inexplicable manner, seemingly designed just for standing around in, and meant by the filmmakers to show off Miles' egotism and bad taste. The surrounding walls are covered with big works of modern art; Jeff Koons is in the air; there is a Rothko hung upside down just for laughs. And for the biggest laugh of all, there is a (rather large) Mona Lisa, which Miles claims is the real thing, snapped up (temporarily, one guesses, but at huge expense) to help out France, and since the Louvre is closed right now because this all takes place during the early, shutdown, phase of the Covid pandemic. Banksy is mentioned earlier. There are several Basquiats. One can spot other works in other rooms, for instance a sort of peekaboo Mondrian and a very large image from Matisse's Jazz. This is all sort of fun except that the art isn't enjoyable. It isn't shown how art can enhance the interior of a house and make it more beautiful and more interesting. It's just display. The middle of the main room is jammed with stands, glass sculptures of various sizes upon them. The room isn't comfortable. Later, the purpose of the glass sculptures becomes clear: they are there for the enraged Andi Brand (Janelle MonŠe), a disaffected former Miles partner whom he has cheated, to smash. This room I love to hate, the production designer Rick Heinrichs explains in that Entertainment article, conceals other sly elements for repeat or freeze-frame viewers to relish. But that's just an illustration of how overstuffed and self-satisfied this movie is.

    There are going to be (spoiler alert) some flashy acts of destruction toward the end, including, flashiest of all, a big fire. It's all an ambiguous kind of potlatch: not quite initiated by or for the possessor of the wealth, but a way of showing off his obscene extravagance. Edward Lane in his less than enthusiastic review in The New Yorker (with which I tend to agree) - found the proceedings chilly and unfun, which he thought due to the sameness of the guests compared to the all-ages Knives Out group; and he also asked if just such a flashy violent ending wasn't exactly what Daniel Craig quit the Bond series to get away from. Don't some of the viewers and critics who've loved Glass Onion notice that anther, noisier and flasher and more tasteless movie is oozing into Johnson's original clever mystery idea?

    Johnson and his editors find ingenious ways of telling their story convolutedly. Maybe as various reviewers say the cast is having fun and it's enjoyable to watch that. Really? My favorite moment was when Benoit Blanc, in one of his most expository moments, sought to explain what a stupid idiot Miles Bron is. But the test of "real life" makes one ambivalent about this notion. If Elon Musk is so stupid, how come he's so rich?

    It's obvious that people who like British mysteries can watch them on YouTube now. Others who find them quaint and dusty want something fresher, more contemporary. And I think probably the 2019 Rian Johnson Knives Out was a brilliant and lively fulfillment of that need. But Rian Johnson has become the (well heeled) victim of his own success.

    Nonetheless, there is some extremely ingenious storytelling in Glass Onion involving flashbacks and what Peter Bradshaw calls "all manner of cheeky POV-shift reveals." It is intricate, it is clear. My concern with the tastelessness and excess of the sets is that of one who was never a great mystery fan but who preferred the economy and simplicity of the old British ones.

    Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, 139 mins., debuting at Toronto Sept. 2022, it was shown and featured at a dozen other mostly US film festivals. Limited US theatrical release began Nov. 23. It streams on Netflix from Dec. 23. Metacritic rating: 81%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-26-2022 at 10:32 PM.


Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts