← Back to Reviews

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

This is kind of an odd movie. Rian Johnson is almost trying to see what he can get away with in a mainstream movie here, playing with the structure of the film, and he kinda gets away with it in that that part of the film actually works just fine.
For the first hour of the movie, this seems like an intentionally sillier version of the first film. While fun enough, it borders on parody at every turn. Aside from the lighter, goofier tone, every character being a caricature of an archetype feels a bit much. And, while I like Craig’s acting overall in this very much (particularly the physical part), it also seems like a caricature or parody of the Benoit Blanc from the previous film. And it seemed really obvious where everything was going and it was just gonna be the usual matter of figuring out whodunnit, in classic Agatha Christie, which Johnson has cited as his main influence for these films (which he intends to make more of), where everyone has the motive and everyone has the opportunity, but who actually did it. Too simple. All of which had me scratching my head wondering what the impetus was to go this route.
And then
WARNING: "so spoilery" spoilers below
halfway through the movie, we get a surprise, the murder we think will be the first murder is not who we expected at all, so how does this fit? It seems like we're in for a really long and convoluted explanation, which could falter utterly or maybe it'll work out.
And then the movie decides to go another layer down as it's revealed why it seems so silly and so simple. The idea that Blanc and another character are actually running a ruse on all the other characters to solve a murder we actually don't even know occurred yet is a completely unexpected twist (though it answers most of my head-scratching). The movie has been a caricature thus far because we've actually been watching two of the characters acting the whole time, putting on a show. We're actually trying to solve a murder we didn't know was committed that occurred off-screen before the film even starts.
If you can pull it off, Rian, then good for you.
So, did it work for me? Eh, probably just enough to give it a pass.
The mystery does technically hold together and ties together a lot of things we are shown throughout the film and the film is mostly pretty fun with enjoyable if somewhat over the top performances all around. However, the resolution of the mystery still requires new information that takes place well outside of the boundaries of what we've seen prior to the explanation and that is always a pet-peeve for me in mysteries. And the ending is bizarre. Not nearly as satisfying as I might have liked.
A few notes:
The Mona Lisa gag was already used in The Freshman. That may be okay but I found it distracting.
I actually like Janelle Monae more than I thought I would. She did seem a little flat when
WARNING: "super spoilers" spoilers below
she was “acting” but they actually explain why, then when she plays REAL Andy she becomes quite credible and she’s not bad as the sister either, honestly. At times she is playing a character who is playing a character
and she hasn’t had that much practice yet and I think she’s doing alright.
I like the way they played Whiskey out. “Expeditious” may have been a bit much.
"It’s so dumb, it’s brilliant!"
"No, it’s just DUMB!"
One wonders how meta Rian was trying to be there.

In the end, I actually liked the structure of the film a good bit.
WARNING: "don't you read it!" spoilers below
The twin thing didn’t bother me because it’s not an ass-pull at all in this context as Rian makes the very, very wise decision to show it to the audience halfway through when he resets the mystery.
Johnson is a craftsman and it shows everywhere, from the color palette to the blocking (the physical position of characters in different shots actually really matters and means something), to the call-backs in the script, but sometimes he just overdoes it.
Ultimately, I found this amusing enough that I was not sorry I watched it. Whether or not I would watch it again or just re-watch Evil Under The Sun instead, hard to say.

And I must say, having been born in, grown up in, and spent nearly all my life in The South, from Virginia through Louisiana and every Southern state in between (no True Southerner considers Texas to be part of The South, though I have also spent a good bit of time there), I have never heard an accent like Craig's Blanc outside of movies. There are times when he seems to lilt into Kentucky (which I feel he’s probably closest to overall). Obviously he's hamming it up early on in the film but his accent in both films... I dunno, maybe there are some rich people in Savannah I haven't met yet (as this is very similar to the hilarious accent Kevin Spacey employed in Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil). Both (and most of these movie Southern accents) seem like a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

And it amuses me no end that people will get up in arms over whether a Brooklyn accent sounds authentic or sounds like Jersey or Queens but it’s just fine to lump a fourth of the country into some ridiculous, borderline mocking, drawl. Typical.