Knives Out

Damn everyone is having a ball in this movie.
Whilst I think the essence of the film’s message is true and fine, I’m not sure about the way the issue of immigration and who belongs where is reduced to an individualistic framework where the person with the best heart gets the house, and by extension America. Whilst it may seem nit picky to ask this whodunnit film to wrestle with the structural roots of white supremacy and suppression of minorities and immigrants, I do think the film makes itself open to that line of inquiry after making so many overt references to the matter. By the film’s thematic logic, had Marta not been a perfectly virtuous character - if she had been flawed, if she had been prone to inattention, or if she had responded to the family’s insults and disrespect with anything other than humble equanimity - she wouldn’t have deserved the house, and metaphorically citizenship. Immigration shouldn’t be granted on the basis of individual morality, but collective empathy and understanding. Immigrants deserve citizenship, respect and fair treatment even if they’re selfish, temperamental, or any other imperfect manifestation of humanity. In this sense, the film embodies the superficially pleasant but morally flaccid liberal policy consensus of ‘means testing’. I don’t want to test if immigrants have a good enough heart to grant them citizenship, I want them to just have it regardless. There’s always more than enough to go around.
I think the twist filled nature of the genre fits Rian Johnson’s style and his fondness of subversion. Whilst it works mostly well here, there is one revealing moment that I think points to why some might be dissatisfied with this strategy. It comes at the very end, when *SPOILERS* Marta reveals that Fran is indeed dead, and that Ransom had just confessed to murder. Whilst this twist is fun on a plot level, it immediately stood out on a character level. Fran, Marta’s co-worker is dead, and Marta doesn’t even react. Whilst she vomits after lying, just the fact that she was able to suppress her grief seems unrealistic and not true to the character. This is a small nit pick but I noticed it when watching this, and points to perhaps Johnson’s willingness to circumvent emotional reality for plot or thematic purposes. That being said, there’s a ton of great character work in this, but I think those tiniest details are what make it real for me. I have to, or want to believe in the character down to the most minute detail. And it did feel distracting when it felt like the film ignored how Marta would have felt after hearing of her co-worker’s death. Nonetheless, that’s merely a tiny detail I picked up on that felt revealing to me, and I still had a blast with this film.

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