Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Crooked House - If You Can Survive Family, You Can Survive Anything

PG-13 1h 55 mm
I think people more often kill those they love, than those they hate. Possibly because only the people you love can really make life unendurable to you.
Agatha Christie from Crooked House, March 1949
I was extremely excited last week when I came across a trailer for Crooked House because I am an Agatha Christie fan and also because the screen play had been written by Julian Fellowes who captivated audience worldwide with the upstairs/downstairs antics of Downton Abbey. Even better I did not have to wait for the December 22nd, release date here in the U.S. because iTunes was doing a pre-release rental. Now, does it live up to my hype?

Aristide Leonides is dead and it appears to have been a murder by poison. He was a fabulously wealthy man,originally penniless and from Greece who fought his way to the top in English society, where rank often matters more than money. The Leonides family all live in one of those impossibly large English estate houses that dizzies the average person with thoughts of what would you do with all of that room. This arrangement has nothing to do with warm, fuzzy feelings. It's all about who has the money, having the control and that person was Aristide. The unhappy brood includes a younger wife,two sons, two daughter-in-laws, a sister-in-law and three grandchildren. It's one of the granddaughters, Sophia (Stefanie Martini) who approaches a detective about looking in to Aristide's death. The detective, Charles (Max Irons), shares a troubled romantic past with Sophia but agrees to take on the case. Charles proceeds to float around the large Leonides house encountering all of the residents one by one and asking the hard questions. There are predictable twists and turns involving competing wills, methods of murder and the inevitable second death (Don't accuse me of spoilers. The second death is a staple of murder mysteries). In the end you will get your culprit revealed and realize that Crooked House does deserve the description as one of Christie's most twisted novels.

No complaints here, really. The cast generally does what is intended. Since the Leonides family is so large, not every actor gets a chance to shine. Glenn Close is fantastic as the sister-in-law with severely coifed hair and an attitude to match. Maybe it's the accent but I got some Cruella De-Vil vibes. Max Irons is a good choice for Charles. He has the pretty face and frankly, the physical attributes to carry off the sharp 1950's suits. He also exudes a confident swagger that makes it believable when he makes the suspects squirm. Gillian Anderson (Magda vamping, actress daughter-in-law) and Christina Hendricks (Brenda, former Las Vegas showgirl turned blushing bride to Aristide) are probably my favorite of the Leonides family. They play similar roles, lounging around, drinking a bit too much and delivering some catty dialogue.... but they both pull back just at the point of going into some Clue like campiness. Finally, my favorite part of this movie is the reveal scene. We find out the killer in a way that sneaks up on you in a scene that at first seems joyful and innocent but then a scary truth will jump into your mind.