A Few of My Favorite Things (2022): Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
This is the first in a series of posts about my favorite pop culture of the year. Some of it is from this year, some is from years past that I experienced for the first time in 2022. Some of it is random and personal.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (2022)
Daniel Craig: Benoit Blanc
Edward Norton: Miles Bron
Kate Hudson: Birdie Jay
Dave Bautista: Duke Cody
Janelle Monae: Andi Brand
Kathryn Hah: Claire Debella
Leslie Odom, Jr.: Lionel Toussaint
Jessica Henwick: Peg
Madelyn Cline: Whiskey
Written & Directed by Rian Johnson
Rated PG-13 for strong language, some violence, sexual material, and drug content
Glass Onion, like Knives Out before it, works both as a funny and entertaining whodunit in the vein of Agatha Christie's best work and a biting social commentary. Where the first Benoit Blanc mystery satirized class inequity, the follow-up skewers tech bros and celebrity culture and is a not-so-thinly veiled mocking of Elon Musk types.
Edward Norton plays Miles Bron, a self-proclaimed "disruptor" who invites his closest friends to his private island estate for a murder mystery party. He intends to set himself up as the victim of the fictitious whodunit he has meticulously planned and the others participate in the discovery of the killer. How Daniel Craig's brilliant detective Blanc comes to arrive at this gathering is a twist I wouldn't dream of spoiling. It is one of many surprises Glass Onion presents that are uproarious and delightful.
The cast is clearly having a ball here and it is fun to Norton playing comedy so deftly. Kate Hudson channels her mother Goldie Hawn perfectly and Dave Bautista continues to show me why he is such an interesting actor. Of course, Daniel Craig is fantastic as Benoit Blanc and even builds the character more from the first film. The real star, though, Janelle Brand as Andi Brand, a former business partner of Miles who has a major ax to grind with every member of the gang. Her scenes with Craig especially are electric.
The real treat with Glass Onion is watching Rian Johnson play with expectations and subverting what we think we have come to know about these characters. The first third of movie - including a cleverly staged opening - sets the scene, gives the characters and some key information like any good mystery, and creates taut tension. The middle third then circles back over the same material and reveals new revelations in a Rashomon-esque approach. The final act is a wild and hilarious ride to the ultimate reveal of the murderer. Johnson shows us a scene between two characters and then later shows us the same thing from a different perspective, what happened just off camera.
All the while, he sprinkles in little jabs about name-dropping celebrities, the crave for attention at all costs, and what it means to truly innovate. One of the treats of the Benoit Blanc mysteries is its acceptance of the time in which it takes place and how they way the story comments on current events and climate. Knives Out is very much a movie about the Trump era in the White House. Glass Onion exists during the COVID-19 pandemic and has a little fun with quarantines, masks, and treatments. Social media and influencer culture also takes some shots and that commentary provides the movie's best exchange. Blanc is visiting with Kate Hudson's Birdie Jay, an actress who keeps her publicist busy with damage control due to Birdie's penchant for offensive and racist tweets.
"I'm a truth teller," she tells Blanc. "Some people can't handle it."
He replies, "it's a dangerous thing to mistake speaking without thought for speaking the truth, don't you think?"
It's a line that perfectly encapsulates this story about a group of people who are nowhere near as clever or provocative as they believe.
Glass Onion is one of my favorite movies of the year. It's funny, sharp, smart, and exquisitely shot. It is disheartening it was only in theaters for a week because it deserves to be seen on the big screen like its predecessor. Still, catch it on Netflix when it drops and don't let anyone ruin the cameos for you beforehand.