[PODCAST Waypoints 43] 'Knives Out' Is More Than a Clever Murder Mystery, It's About Class

Spoiler Warning for Knives Out

Rob was gifted a ticket to watch 2015's breakout musical Hamilton, and left with many questions. Austin and Cado join him to discuss the legacy and fandom around Hamilton, and how each of them has had different trajectories with the musical. After the break, the crew gets into a spoiler filled discussion of Rian Johnson's Knives Out, how it toes the line between upholding and shifting genre conventions, and how expertly weaved this story of privilege and racism was told in the frame of a murder mystery. You can read an excerpt or listen to the full podcast below.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/pkep9y/knives-out-is-more-than-a-clever-murder-mystery-its-about-class

After my wife and I saw Knives Out I laid out my theory that the movie was more about people, even when allowed to be anything other than who they truly are can’t escape their nature. From the first moment of the movie when Fran stumbles upon the scene resists the understandable reaction to scream and drop the tray of breakfast, swearing at herself for the small mess she made when she nearly dropped the tray to Marta choosing to not run and try to save the life of someone she perceived as a threat lay dying.

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My relationship with Hamilton has changed as my distance from the #Resistance has changed, I think (I’d love to see a paper on how subcultures subsume works of art). I was fortunate enough to see it on Broadway (shout-out to my impossibly generous parents), and it really is a good musical, but I can’t extricate the value of the work itself from the baggage it carries as a sort of 2016 neoliberal victory anthem.

EDIT: I figure I may as well use this post to talk about the things I love about Knives Out (although the crew gets through most of 'em, including the best line in the movie).
-Harlan has two lines in the movie that wind up being about the movie itself: “Don’t tell them the whole truth, only fragments of the truth” and “can’t tell the difference between a stage prop and the real thing [knife]”. I can’t tell if it’s self-indulgent or clever, but I just find it delightful.
-Frank Oz is the estate lawyer.
-Daniel Craig’s accent. They mention it in the podcast. I will never stop mentioning it.
-I’d love to know what episode of “Murder, She Wrote” they have (there’s a scene in which Marta’s mother is watching “Murder, She Wrote,” but it’s a Spanish dub and my Spanish isn’t that good. Rian Johnson is so detail-oriented throughout the rest of the movie that I find it hard to believe that he didn’t have a particular episode in mind.
-The soundtrack is perfect. Sounds like a Victorian-era string quartet.
The movie lends itself very well to repeated viewings, which I intend to do when it comes out.

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Loved the episode, but thought the takes on Murder on the Orient Express were a tad reductive. More than just a question of “murder…bad??” it’s a deeply painful personal struggle for Poirot himself, who has up to this point relied entirely on a very “law and order over all” approach to morality - in earlier books, when confronted with the more sympathetic murderers, his line was always simply “I do not approve of murder”. The events on the Orient Express shake his worldview on a fundamental level, culminating in (spoilers for Curtain) Poirot ultimately committing murder himself to protect his friend. It also doubles as a crisis of religious faith, though that was cut from the recent movie adaptation.

But then, I like those ‘theme park’ kinds of mysteries, so I’m biased. Anyway, Knives Out rules, can’t wait to watch it a second time.

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I may have missed it, and I can imagine it getting lost in the runtime, but I’m surprised they didnt bring up the “immigrants, they get the job done” line in Knives Out, if only because it’s a connective thread in the text between the the film and Hamilton.

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I loved the episode, especially the tangent about star trek and the seductive worldview of a lot of good genre fiction: it gives an understandable and neat solution to issues that similar situations in the real world may never resolve in our lifetimes or are followed by more problems. And yet it’s so satisfying to watch a bunch of episodes and see Picard and company solve these problems, as a benevolent superpower.

During the discussion about Knives Out, it was mentioned how murder mystery movies are rare these days. I couldn’t help but wonder if Hollywood’s trend to make fewer kinds of movies for theaters will allow an Uber-like movie theater app. An app that lets homeowners make money showing streaming movies that nearby people want to see in living rooms/man caves hosted by the homeowner.
I don’t love this idea because someone could probably kidnap people by using this app, but it would make an irresistible hook for a murder mystery.

If you’re ever thinking rich folks might have your back, just remember what Uncle Hoffa says:

“If I said it once, I said it a thousand times, I don’t care they’re Irish, I don’t care they’re Catholic, if there’s one person you can’t trust in this life, it’s millionaire’s kids”

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Uncle Hoffa sounds like a smart dude, whoever he is.

It’s a quote from The Irishman, I have no idea if Jimmy Hoffa actually said it at some point

I mean to see Hamilton this year, but it’s definitely telling that I almost only ever listen to the Schuyler Sister songs and Burr’s Dear Theodosia.

Really enjoyed this pod. Finally saw knives out today so I could listen to the second half, loved it. I agree w/ chatter4500 above that it would’ve been interesting for them to more directly contrast Hamilton’s legacy with what the work has to say about legacy, but oh well.

One thing I think is important about Hamilton, specifically the cast album, is that almost the entire musical is on it. There’s no excluded dialogue, aside from one minor scene where “The Story of Tonight” is reprised, because of the rapping subbing for any interstitial dialogue. To me, the fact that anyone can listen to the cast album on Spotify and get the entire narrative is important to its popularity. I do think Hamilton is well-staged (got to see it back in 2015 as a Christmas gift, thanks mom) and worth seeing if you can afford it/the traveling company is coming to a city near you, but narratively you’re not missing much by just listening to the album on Spotify, which made it super accessible in a way that seems uncommon for other musicals I’ve interacted with (though I could be wrong about this).

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Hamilton is certainly much closer to something like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat than it is something like The Book of Mormon. Most of Hamilton is music.

Agreed. I would have preferred more of a discussion of the content of the musical and the actual narrative contained within it than the fandom and subculture resulting from it. If I’m being honest it felt like a bad faith critique of the work that failed to engage with the text and staging of the show. I also don’t know what to do with the assertion that Miranda deserves no credit for the impact of his work, because if he hadn’t written the show, inevitably someone else would have.

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obra dinn, but on a train

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Murder on the ObraDinn Express send tweet

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if yall like danny craigs ridiculous southern accent, pls watch Logan Lucky. its different than this one, but still great

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“Ah. Am. In-Carr-Cerr-Rated.”

Good shit.

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That reminds me, the Knives Out franchise isn’t complete till we get a 90s-early 00s style Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, Murder on the Orient Express, or whatever first person point and click mystery game with a very definitely not even close to Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc saying “That’s not going to work” or “I need to try something else” for the hundredth time as you try to unlock the door with what is definitely the right key.

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As a listener, between this and the Disco Elysium spoilercast, this past weekend has been absolutely delightful.

Watching Knives Out, I couldn’t help but keep thinking of Roma, and the relationship between Cleo and the family (which I believe Waypoint discussed awhile back). Both Roma and Knives Out explore the contradiction that comes from a relationship where one person is proclaimed to be family, while simultaneously being in a role of service and knowing that their livelihood and future is largely controlled by the other party. And I think the reason this comparison kept coming up in my mind because the conclusion it comes to with this contradiction was so different for each film…

In Roma, it ends with us knowing that while that difference in power creates a distance, the family genuinely loves Cleo, and yet the contradiction remains ongoing. We don’t get any easy solution, and her life situation as compared to them remains unfair. In Knives Out, the answer to the contradiction is that the notion of family was a veneer, something to assuage any possible guilt on the family’s part that she was ultimately far more deserving than they ever were. The idea of “family” was only ever there to paper over that imbalance of power, and the notion of family doesn’t keep even the most sympathetic family members from betraying her. To be clear, I definitely don’t mean to say they’re identical (especially given the makeup of the families), but I did appreciate how each explored that same imbalance in their own ways.

Also, I absolutely love the foreshadowing of Marta’s whole story with how she plays Go: she won because she wasn’t trying to beat anyone.

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so something i love about the casting in the movie has to relate to Chris Evans: to have Evans be the villain in the movie was a masterstroke because for the last decade we have recognized him as Captain America, a hero, some one we trust. Put him in a big sweater and we let our guard down even more and for him in his first movie since end game to be the villain? i honestly didnt see it coming.

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