Another year, another Austin film festival in the books where locals could get a sneak peek of upcoming films. This year’s festival, from October 27 to November 27. 3, was a study in polarity, beginning with a picture as ghastly as there has ever been – Darren Aronofsky’s dehumanizing “The Whale” – and ending Thursday with incarnate delight – “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” by Rian Johnson.
Here’s what you need to know if you missed the 2022 Austin Film Festival closing film.
Everything is bigger and cleaner.
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is, by the way, and from the indication of the title, a sequel to 2019’s “Knives Out”, which had its US premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin. This blockbuster murder mystery could be introduced as state evidence in Hollywood’s stagnation lawsuit. What a breath of fresh air: an original film that conjured up the genre’s finest gems, with warm New England vibes and a star-studded roster playing against type (Chris Evans! Daniel Craig!) and beloved yeomen chewing up great supporting roles (Jamie Lee Curtis! Toni Colette!).
For the sequel, writer-director Johnson immerses “Knives Out” hero, distinguished Southern detective Benoit Blanc (Craig), in another mystery dripping with new blood. A group of old friends, all self-proclaimed “disruptors” in their fields and also all obnoxious, reunite for a pandemic vacation on a Greek island owned by their tech billionaire friend, Miles Bron (Edward Norton). Among them: politician Claire (Kathryn Hahn), “men’s rights” activist/broadcaster Duke (Dave Bautista), scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.) and goofy fashionista Birdie (Kate Hudson). Oh, and Andi (Janelle Monae), Miles’ former business partner whom he just fired from half of their Google-esque business.
Miles has set up a game of murder mystery for their weekend getaway at his garish vacation palace, nicknamed the Glass Onion. But when Benoit Blanc is in the game, you can bet the game will turn deadly.
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“Glass Onion” is not a “Knives Out” clone. Rian retained the core of the first film – what looks like a standard case of Agatha Christie takes several postmodern left turns, as a colorful detective helps a young woman find justice among a nest of wealthy idiots – and l attached to a Formula 1 car.
As its title suggests, “Glass Onion” is shimmering, layered, and eerie. The stars seem more starry, the comedy seems bigger, and the world itself seems to have grown more absurd. The cameos, man… the cameos. It all fits together, though, never seeming rude. It helps when your script is this clever.
Craig, above all, is having more fun. Detective White’s Foghorn Leghorn-in-an-ascot quality finds new shades in “Glass Onion.” He gets giddy, he gets exasperated, and we even get to see a bit of his private life. Basically, the narrative is not directed by Blanc. Like all great fictional sleuths, he’s mostly here to herd the cats, collect clues, and let the criminals out on their own when everyone gathers in one room at the end.
The cast so perfectly embodies these precisely drawn sketches of rich and powerful gargoyles that exist in real life. In a post-screening Q&A via video call Thursday, Johnson admitted the film wasn’t subtle in its send-offs, though he didn’t write any character as a person analog. Yet you shudder at the thought of Bautista’s replacement for Alex Jones being roasted by his mother (the sublime Jackie Hoffman), and you nod sadly laughing at the prideful folly of Elon Musk’s facsimile. from Norton. The film is great, but the intelligence that drives it is greater.
But no one, and we mean no one, threads a better million-dollar needle than Hudson. His Birdie, a racist, casual dress maven with a wide-brimmed sun hat, a penchant for scandal and a Montana-sized identity, belongs in the pantheon of great cinematic comedy characters. You could probably find her wandering around the Southern Congress right now. Come on, check it out.
Rian Johnson is the People’s author.
During the Q&A, the filmmaker dropped bits left and right. And thank God, because this “Onion” is dense. There’s so much to take away, apologies, from this movie, and Johnson gave Austin viewers a particularly fun use of a fugue (the musical genre, not the trance genre) as a metaphor, stemming from a line disposable within the first 10 minutes.
And honestly, Johnson just seemed humbled and excited to share his passion with people. Festival audiences gave him love for his earlier work on “The Brick” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” It’s hard not to love a guy who uses $40 million in Netflix money to roast the rich and ignorant for 2 hours.
Also, he grabbed a recently purchased, comically long (think Gandalf) pipe a few times on camera, smiling shyly at the sight gag. No wonder all these stars want to hang out with him in Greece.
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Not to wish the world another franchise, but…
… we must. In 15 years, we reserve the right to complain about “Knives Out 9: Eleanor Rigby”. But “Glass Onion” flexes the durability of Johnson’s twist on a classic genre formula and the adaptability of its central detective. You could see Craig taking Benoit Blanc anywhere: to solve a murder at a lodge in Oregon, to solve a murder at a jazz club in New York, to solve a murder in space. Heck, the character is so much fun you might see the old James Bond switch the linen suit to a new white one.
How to see ‘Glass Onion’
“Glass Onion” plays a limited series in theaters starting November 23 and hits Netflix on December 23. Either way, you see it with your family for the holidays.
To note: A-
With : Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn
Director: Rian Johnson
Note : PG-13 for coarse language, drug-related content, some violence, sexual material
Operating time: 2 hours, 19 minutes