This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dan’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Knives Out is, I think, a remarkably well-crafted who/whydunnit murder mystery from a guy I've idolized since college. There's parts I think are way too clever by half, and dialogue I don't think will age well, but it's a fun flick in a year with, for better or for worse, far too few.
What I think makes this more notable than a standard film of its caliber is the way Rian Johnson weaves race and class politics into it. A lot of people have pointed out similarities between it and Parasite, which makes sense as its the other film this year with an obvious message about class, but I think this level of critique is ignoring that intersection between class & race, which in my opinion bring this much closer to a White Get Out than an American Parasite.
The comparison might be a tad controversial but I think much like Peele's willingness to expose white liberals as just as racist (without actually *saying* racist things) as mouth frothing racists, Johnson is eager to give us a political spectrum of rich white people, from frou frou liberals to people literally spouting Trump talking points and everything in between, and show them being racist in both overt and subtle ways. It probably reads as simplistic, but as someone used to white directors having surface level on race and class I was surprised to see Johnson dig a little deeper here.
Thinking specifically of the way Don Johnson's Morris quotes Hamilton, a musical notable for making our racist founding fathers palatable for white lib audiences by casting POC in those roles, doing fun raps, and having inoffensive politics such as the quoted "immigrants: we get the job done!", while later straight up talking about how awful undocumented immigrants are because they're "not doing it the right way" and because "America is for Americans". He points to Ana de Armas' Marta (our focus character for the film's duration) as an example of an immigrant who "did it right" while no one in the family is able to remember what country she immigrated *from*.
Or Michael Shannon's Walt hands off approach to politics while his wife and son represent the alt-right "great replacement" contingent of Current Politics.
Or Toni Collette and Katherine Langford's Joni and Meg are willing to, when the chips are down, cast aside their crunchy liberal politics in order to live comfortably and not have to work.
While Marta's service class status is important to how she ingratiates herself into the family, it's her being latina vs the white Thrombey family that serves as the catalyst for much of the later drama, as accusations of being an "anchor baby" and depriving them of their "heritage" and "birthright" get thrown around eagerly. Even how they treat her vs the other service workers in their home is different, both because of the affection Christopher Plummer's Harlan gives her and because it's simply not done. And of course, the entire plot couldn't happen if Marta was white, as its kicked off by her and Harlan being concerned about legal trouble forcing her mother to be deported due to her undocumented status.
The more I think of the comparisons between this and Parasite the more baffling it becomes, as if a whole swath of people ignored that the class stuff in Parasite worked because both families were Korean, whereas here in Knives Out that racial divide is so important. It's important that white directors like Rian Johnson continue to point this stuff out, because the more we ignore the intersections of oppression the less likely we are to actually achieve any sense of solidarity.
Plus it's like missing the right side of a stereo speaker set. You're only getting half the story here.