Entertainingly self-referential

I don’t usually do something just because Richard Armitage recommends it, but this film was somewhat on my radar already despite the presence of the ubiquitous and in my opinion untalented Saoirse Ronan. I thought it was a lot of fun, and it might particularly appeal to viewers who enjoyed Knives Out orMurder by Death. I’m thinking Armitage’s friends are David Oyelowo and Shirley Henderson? He can be proud of them, as each delivers an excellent performance.

I really loved how the immensely clever script twisted in on itself: it’s a movie about a murder that occurs around a whodunit play involving a murder, with a third meta level in which we consider the inspector (amusingly named “Stoppard” and incompetently performed by Sam Rockwell) and his assistant (played by Ronan — she is fantastic in this role, which in itself is rather flabbergasting) as sources of an additional level of self-reference, plot twists, and in-jokes. I think viewers who are aware that “The Mousetrap” is the longest running play in western theatre history will get more from those jokes — and I wonder if that is still the well-known factoid it used to be. There are a ton of puns and sly jokes here about theatre history, and while it’s quite funny that one of the main characters is named Köpenick, I’m not sure you get why that’s funny unless you’re familiar with twentieth-century German theatre, or if you catch why it’s hilarious that the producer in the film (played by Ruth Wilson) doesn’t think the play will go on all that long.  And I’m not confident I caught all the puns and insider theatre and whodunit references.

Ultimately, it’s a pleasantly lightweight film that never misses an opportunity to make a campy reference, but also never draws a joke or a moment out too long for the audience’s laughter or attention span. The customary plot twist is not entirely surprising, but its resolution is hilarious. If you’re paying attention in the first part of the film, the final scenes are especially amusing.

All in all, this is a fun film — well-paced with good performances.

~ by Servetus on October 1, 2022.

4 Responses to “Entertainingly self-referential”

  1. The film runs in cinemas in France now, but only in the greater ones. So no chance to watch it here in the countryside, maybe in Germany, there It will be released at the end of october.
    He looks weird in blue, an critically ill red dragon

    Liked by 1 person

    • Almost purple, really.

      There’s a little bit of inventive camera work, but on the whole, you could see it on your TV screen and not lose anything.


  2. I enjoyed it too, David Oyelowo was a hoot and he must be one of the friends mentioned. And yes you might be right about Shirley Henderson. I’d forgotten about Frozen. Sam Rockwell was odd casting, an American playing a Brit, but that lack of realism somehow added to the fun artifice. I thought he was endearing (and his partnership with PC Stalker) but other actors were underused, particularly Sian Clifford.


    • Rockwell was such an incongruous casting choice that it made me think it must be some kind of joke, or clue (a la “Murder by Death,” where fake accents are a matter of regular comment in the movie itself iirc). But there weren’t any jokes (or any I noticed, anyway) that related to that.

      Agree that other actors were underused. I’d add the actor who played John Woolf to that list, as well as the one who played Christie / Mallowan’s butler.

      Liked by 1 person

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