Metadata: PG-13 | 2017 | 115 minutes
Genre: Period Mystery!
Why I watched: I LOVE mysteries. And Agatha Christie, things set in Britain, things set in the 1950s, and supersaturated films. I also love Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, and Christina Hendricks. Oh and Julian Fellowes! So, I was pretty sure that I would love this movie, which has all of these ingredients and then some. Spoiler alert: I did!
You might also like: If you are unaware of the absolutely brilliant Grantchester, then you are in for a treat! The premise: A very handsome, jazz-loving vicar Sidney Chambers sometimes finds himself solving murders with the inspector Geordie Keating in a bucolic English village, all while searching for love, spiritual fulfillment, and his adorable black lab, Dickens! Grantchester, part of Masterpiece Mystery, is on PBS and Amazon.
Set on a sprawling estate in an English suburb, Crooked House follows spy-turned-private-eye Charles Hayward (Max Irons) as he investigates on behalf of a wealthy heiress, Sophia de Haviland (newcomer Stefanie Martini), the murder of the family's patriarch. Three generations of the Leonides family live under the same roof, and everyone is a suspect. From the dead man's much younger wife, Las Vegas dancer Brenda Leonides (Christina Hendricks), to his eccentric sister Lady Edith (Glenn Close), to his granddaughter Sophia and her cunning former actress mother Magda (Gillian Anderson), plus all of the sons who hope to inherit the family business, at any given moment each looks just as guilty.
Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey wrote the screenplay for Crooked House, and it shows. The Leonides' family dynamics are as intricate as the Crawley's, and the house is as alive as the Abbey. And like Downton, Crooked House is just as interested in the working man as it is the privileged elite. For the majority of the film, we inhabit Charles's point of view, which tells us from the beginning not to trust the aristocracy. Matters become stickier as we discover that Charles and Sophia were formerly "involved" when he was a spy in Cairo. Is he blinded by his attraction? Did she employ him because he would never accuse her of the murder? What happened in Cairo!? The plot thickens! (Yes, I just said that.)
Lush and over the top at times, Crooked House is a master class in pacing and camera work. Plot twists, evidence discoveries, and secondary crimes occur at exactly the right moments. The camera gives us a slow zoom to increase the suspense when necessary, then switches to handheld tracking shots when we're hot on the chase. We find ourselves in obscured lighting when Charles is in the dark, and in broad daylight when a discovery is made. And besides all of this, the movie is just gorgeous. Despite the fact that there are murders going on there, I still found myself wanting to crawl into the world of Crooked House.
In short: I'm obsessed, and you will be, too!
Happy streaming! Liz