Story: It’s murder mystery writer Harlan Thrombey’s 85th birthday – mazel! But things go from celebratory to somber as Harlan is found dead the next morning, his throat slit. Who did it? Well, who didn’t? Every member of his conniving family seems to have a reason – good or threadbare – so it’s up to Benoit Blanc to figure out just what happened. Good luck, dude. You’re gonna need it.
Genre I’d put it in: Killer Ensemble Mysteries
Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Original, but pays irreverent homage to the cozy and whodunit mystery genres.
Gotta say: Less a “whodunit” than a “what the hell is happening” murder mystery, Out‘s stellar cast uses their killer chops to lift a convoluted story into high comedic art. Not as crazy as A Fish Called Wanda, Clue or High Anxiety, yet Out skewers the murder mystery, giving the genre new life. Though the plot is a bit wobbly, it’s worth the price of admission just to see all these incredibly talented performers sink their teeth into a good old fashioned comedy mystery.
Daniel Craig’s Benoit (prounounced Ben-WAH; g’head and giggle; I did) does his level best to pin down a Louisiana accent, but perhaps the slipping is part of the fun? I say it is. And Craig’s No Time to Die co-star Ana de Armas plays the straight-woman in the mix; Marta, Thrombey’s nurse who seems to be the only person anywhere near the family that gave a damn about the deceased. The rest of the star-studded cast gets the usual bits here and there as most ensembles do, yet they’re amazing. Of course Evans curses, but Toni Collette’s New Age daughter-in-law, and LaKeith Stanfield’s put-upon second-chair detective are also fun to watch. Then there’s Riki Lindhome as a daughter-in-law that’s a touch too WASP-y to be belived…but Lindhome’s comedic chops (hello Garfunkel and Oates) amps that baby to eleven, and it’s fantastic.
Director/screenwriter Rian Johnson adds touches to each character them pleasantly quirky if not completely fleshed out. But it’s a murder mystery, not a drama; we don’t necessarily need to know everything about everyone. However, the connection between several characters is wonderfully done, giving a believable bent to a particular reveal. Though there were plenty of times my mind wandered, Out pulled me back in with its twists and turns.
However, the story straddles the line between satire and farce rather clumsily. As the story goes on (and on…it’s two hours and ten minutes, and feels like it) whipsmart dialogue delivered by experts turns into silly moments the cast tries its best to wade through. Example; one character can’t lie without throwing up, and so there’s a scene where another character gets covered in barf. Said barf is on the character for the rest of the scene. That a character has to throw up every time s/he fibs is one thing, but gross-out humor? C’mon. This isn’t Jackass. It’s gross, not funny, and it sapped all the fun out of that moment, disconnecting it from the more serious tone of the prior scenes. Yeah, there are plenty of silly moments throughout Out. But the tonal shifts are unsettling as hell.
All in all, Out is entertaining. The structure of the story works perfectly for a mystery. But the plot – how things move along on the whole – felt restless and uninterested in it’s own story. Chalk it up to bits not adding up to an enjoyable but not completely winning whole.
#Protip: Don’t write a review when you’re sick as a dog. It’ll only get all disjointed-like. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!