knives out

I’m a member of AARP, for obvious reasons (though I’m not retired), and so I get various AARP magazines. They sometimes have articles about movies, which are usually, “Here are some movies for grown-ups!” (you know, with no superheroes or zombies or space ships).

Even though I’m old enough to be a member of AARP, I obviously don’t have the hang of this “being a grown-up” thing, as I tend to prefer movies with one or more of those elements – particularly if they’re also funny.

(I am, however sufficiently grown up to cringe whenever anybody uses the word “adulting.” In case you were wondering.)

However (back to the movies) I did just see, and thoroughly enjoy, a movie which probably falls neatly into the “for grown-ups” category: Knives Out.

It’s a wonderful “classic” mystery story, with a tricky plot (which generally holds together), wonderful characters (most of whom are terrible people, as many wonderful characters are) and solid acting throughout.

Daniel Craig plays the detective, a very theatrical private investigator named Benoit Blanc, and he carries it off wonderfully. He plays Blanc with a very strong Southern accent, and, as a measure of how much Blanc himself is performing the role of a “gentleman sleuth,” if there’s another Benoit Blanc movie I would not be at all surprised if he uses a completely different accent.

Here’s a good review, and a trailer.

Another thing I like is that it’s self-contained. There’s nothing like seeing a bunch of franchise series films (and TV shows) to make you appreciate a nice, efficient, one-off story. (I’m reading that there may be a second Benoit Blanc movie at some point, but it probably won’t have much connection to this one. Mystery series are mostly standalone stories — unlike series in fantasy and science fiction.)

That’s one thing I like about the mystery stories I’m writing now — I’ve gone back into the early days of my detective and her assistant, so I don’t have to worry about any of back story established in the other novels and stories. These stories happen before any of the others (and I’ve already decided that these stories may end up going in an entirely different direction and never meet up with the other “continuity”).

There’s a reason that Arthur Conan Doyle never bothered with establishing a consistent history and continuity for Holmes and Watson. When was Watson living at Baker Street, and when was he off living with his wife, and how many times was he married, and if his given name is “John” why does his wife call him “James” in one story, and in which limb did he get shot in Afghanistan? The point was to tell a good story.

I’ve been writing about Jan Sleet, in one form or another, for fifty years now (and for exactly thirty years in pretty much exactly the form she’s in now). It’s nice to strip out all the surrounding stuff that’s built up over all those decades and focus on the detective herself, and at a point in her career when she was a bit less confident and experienced.

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