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Movie Review: Crooked House

CROOKED HOUSE

The granddaughter of late Greek-British business tycoon Aristide Leonides, Sophia Leonides, visits private investigator Charles Hayward in his office. Sophia wants Charles to investigate Aristide’s death, for she believes he was murdered by a member of his sprawling and idiosyncratic family.

Director: Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Writers: Julian Fellowes, Tim Rose Price and Gilles Paquet-Brenner

Starring:
Glen Close, Terrence Stamp, Max Irons, Gillian Anderson and Stefanie Martini
Genre: Murder-Mystery

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Loosely based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, Crooked House, which aired on Netflix this week, has been heavily adapted from Christie’s original. The movie is set in 1957—while the book is set in the late 40s—allows for a few updates, including to the music, a change or two with characters, as well as setting, which are (on the surface) mostly superficial, still, anyone who’s read the book might find this a bit irritating.

Personally, as it’s been decades since I read this one, it wasn’t much of a problem for me.

On the good side, we have some spot on casting with Max Irons playing the erstwhile private investigator, Charles Hayward, who is contacted by an ex-girlfriend to investigate her grandfathers seemingly suspicious death. The ex—Sophia Leonides, played by Stefanie Martini—turns out to have quite the history with Charles which is mostly seen in flash back, and offers clues to whether we’re to trust her motives in the here and now, or not.

Throw in that the family is silly rich, the grandfather was—to all intents and purposes—a nasty piece of work, as described by the “imprisoned” family members, and we’re all set for a lot of snark, bitter recriminations, finger pointing, and every personal slight each has ever endured, bandied about across the dinner table in what passes for family conversation here, at the Leonides estate.

Dripping with throw away lines, our cast of noted actors giving it their all with over the top performances, are hit and miss. So that, at times, this feels a little too contrived—almost a cliché and pastiche of Christie, but not in a good way.

This movie doesn’t have the bite of Knives Out, nor the wit, and seems to have lost something in translation somewhere along the lines. Because the drama was manufactured rather than felt, and the emotions, such as they were, all a bit on the histrionic side for me.

Though, that said, the performances of Terrence Stamp as Chief Inspector Taverner and Max Irons as the detective, were solid enough. I would even go as far as to say, Stefanie Martini handled her role as Sophie well enough. But the secondary players? Were, for me at least, a little too cliched. Like we’ve seen them all before in every other poorly-done adaption of a Christie novel to date.

The fun part of the whole movie was, of course, the wonderfully mad cap performance of Glen Close as Lady Edith de Haviland, sister-in-law to the deceased, wielding a shot gun while on a mole hunt. And it was, in the end, Edith who figures it all out and, in keeping with her slightly crazed persona, gives us a rather OTT ending.

I won’t spoil this review telling you who, what, and why, or, about that OTT ending just in case you want to watch this one. Let’s just say, Crooked House had it’s moments and, on the whole, wasn’t a bad couple of hours viewing, it just wasn’t great either.

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