7. A film based on a book: Crooked House (2017)
List Progress: 2/12
Even without having read Agatha Christie’s 1949 novel Crooked House, you can tell that there are parts of the film adaptation that must have worked better in the book. Little tossed-off mentions to things that don’t get explored, character details that seem very specific but not relevant, a bombastic but abrupt ending. 2017’s Crooked House is perfectly serviceable as a mystery film, but it feels skimmed down, like there is a lot that it does not have room for. This is always a risk when translating a novel into a film, but most movies don’t wear their issues so much on their sleeves.
A famous but contentious family patriarch dies after a mistake with his routine medication, and his eccentric extended family tear into one another over his inheritance. (I imagine Knives Out owes a lot of its DNA to the Christie novel.) The granddaughter of the deceased Aristide Leonides, Sophia, invites her former lover Charles Hayward, himself a private investigator, to solve the death before the police start seriously investigating it as a murder. The actors playing the romantic leads are…fine together. Sophia in particular seems to have “I Have A Secret” tattooed on her forehead, which is a little tiresome by the second half. The real selling points are the supporting cast as the roster of suspects, everything from the patriarch’s trophy widow, to the detective-story obsessed twelve year old granddaughter, to Glenn Close chewing scenery as an aristocratic spinster aunt. Some of them are so broad as to be obvious red herrings, but it is fun to see them all bounce off each other, exhibiting the toxicity that has formed this corrupt crooked house.
The eventual reveal of the killer is exciting, if a bit too easy overall. But it’s clear that the filmmakers had no idea how to have any denouement after the bombastic reveal; an abrupt “The End” title card is even necessary, making one wonder if test audiences weren’t sure if the film was over or not. But while Crooked House isn’t among the best modern Christie adaptations (that honor goes to the 2015 mini-series of And Then There Were None), it also isn’t among the worst (with a pointed look at the 2017 Murder on the Orient Express). It is a trim little mystery film that will hold your attention, but not leave a lasting impression for the ages.
Would I Recommend It: A lukewarm yes.