This time last year I was getting ready to jet off to Italy for my very own roman holiday, so I am very excited to be talking about this classic Audrey Hepburn film this week on Katelovesliterature.com
Roman Holiday was released in 1953, directed by William Wyler. The film stars the iconic, elegant, Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck. This film was quite the success, Hepburn took home the Oscar for best actress & the costume design also won awards. Roman Holiday is considered by many to be one of the most romantic films in history.
When the film was originally released it was in black & white, the version I own is in black & white however I believe that there are versions of this film that have been colourised. While this film was not Hepburn’s first ever role, it was her first time to appear in an American film.
Roman Holiday is a romantic comedy which follows Princess Ann (Hepburn) who, while on a tour of European cities, manages to run away from the confines of royal life when in Rome. Exhausted by the constant schedules, the constant smiling, the constant very scripted answers to questions & routine, Princess Ann just wants a break. She wants a chance to see the city she is in, & she wants to spend the day doing exactly what she pleases. While on her escape from royal life, she meets Joe Bradley, a reporter for the American News Service. At first Joe does not recognise her, but when he learns that his new friend is actually the Princess, he’s determined to get the hottest scoop of the summer. He teams up with his friend Irving Radovich, a talented photographer. The pair bring the disguised Princess on a fun filled tour of Rome, snapping photos all day long as they go. Needless to say, hijinks ensue, & feelings develop, & by the end of the film, the reporter & the Princess are very much in love. Spoiler! Apologies, although I think if you’ve watched any romantic comedy before then you knew where this plot was going before I told you.
This story is nothing new, it is nothing revolutionary. It is simply good fun.
It is a straightforward, charming, easy to follow story about two people from different worlds who find a connection while they explore a beautiful city. They eat, they drink, they laugh, they dance, they famously ride a Vespa through the streets of Rome, & Hepburn is elegant in every step she takes.
The film has no huge stakes. We worry that Princess Ann will be caught while she is exploring & later, we worry that she will be betrayed by the people she thinks are her new friends, however it soon becomes clear that Joe is falling for her too. As I said, the stakes are not huge & yet in my opinion the film manages to still subvert expectations.
In a film like this, romantic comedy conventional norms as we know them in 2023 lead us to expect certain things. As an audience, we expect a huge fight when Princess Ann learns that Joe is actually a reporter & he’s been using her all along to get a scoop. That scene never comes.
We expect Princess Ann to renounce royal life, unable to return to the schedule, instead she leaves it behind in the name of love. That scene also never comes. Instead, after bidding Joe a tearful farewell, the pair depart after a passionate kiss. The Princess returns to her life of royal duties, & Joe leaves to return to work. A press conference is held. The Princess’s absence was put down to sickness, but now she is “better,” & ready to meet the press. Joe is in the crowd.
For the first time ever, the Princess is honest in her answers. When asked what her favourite stop on this European tour has been, she begins her usual diplomatic speech about how each stop is special in its own way, but then she stops. She looks straight at Joe, & she exclaims proudly that her favourite stop was Rome. It is a memory that she will always treasure.
The film ends with Joe & Irving giving Princess Ann the envelope of all the photographs they took on their roman holiday, & the Princess is reassured that their secret adventures are safe. Joe will not be using her for his story, as by now she is more important to him than any hot scoop. The pair go their separate ways once more, exiting the press conference, walking away in opposite directions before we fade to “The End.”
I really enjoyed rewatching this classic as it is a favourite of mine. I think the film is charming. It is a light, summer watch. I think Hepburn is dazzling onscreen, & I do think that despite the stakes not being too big or too stressful, the film does manage to be very poignant especially at the end. Two people who have bonded so much, who have grown to love each other, are going in separate directions. It is likely that these two characters will never meet again, but they both will always cherish the memory of their roman holiday, particularly Princess Ann as this trip symbolises so much for her. It was her freedom, she was doing what she wanted when she wanted, she was expressing herself. She was not representing anyone or anything, she was not doing a duty. For this short time, she was living just for herself, she had so much fun. She found love & adventure in Rome & she will always look back on that time with fond memories. Yet it could not last. She had to return to her royal life & I think there is a true poignancy in that.
If you’ve never seen Roman Holiday, then I would highly encourage you to watch it.
It is a fun, poignant, bright & charming film. You’ll fall in love with Audrey Hepburn & you’ll want your own Vespa!
Stay tuned as there is much more coming up on Katelovesliterature.com
If you’d like to read all about my very own roman holiday, then click the link to read my literature inspired travel guide from last summer.
There will be spoilers ahead – You’ve been warned!
J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan has widely been hailed as the children’s literature classic text for a long time, & the figure of Peter Pan is often the icon used when it comes to encapsulating & celebrating the freedom of youth & the idyllic nature of childhood.
There are many interpretations of the tale of Peter Pan … some say it is a story that celebrates the magical nature of childhood, others say it is a cautionary tale about what we miss out on if we refuse to grow up, some have even added a horror twist to the tale, imagining that the character of Peter Pan is an angel figure who guides children who have died very young to Neverland, which is a kind of heaven-like place. All of these different readings make the text one that can be returned to often. There are many imaginings & readaptations of the tale, the latest one being Disney’s Peter Pan & Wendy, directed by David Lowery. The film was just released on Disney + (April, 2023).
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I felt disappointed with some of Disney’s latest releases. I felt that Hocus Pocus 2 lacked any real stakes & I was looking forward to Disenchanted as I loved the original when I was little, however I was disappointed by the plot & some of the lazy tropes that were employed. As someone who loved the original Disney animated version of Peter Pan when I was little & as someone who studies children’s texts often, I was excited when I first saw the trailer for Peter Pan & Wendy, however I do remember thinking, “They better do this well.”
I was pleasantly surprised by this readaptation. I didn’t read any other reviews before sitting down to watch it. The only feedback that I’d heard before watching the film for myself was that, “Jude Law had fun with the role of Captain Hook,” (paraphrased) . A comment like this is usually code for, “The film was just okay, and the actor was okay, but he had fun,” however I came away from this film feeling like Jude Law stole the show. This version of the story focused more on Wendy & Captain Hook rather than on Peter Pan himself, & while this decision did have some minor drawbacks that I will expand upon in further points, I felt that this was a really great decision overall. Captain Hook in this readaptation was a wonderful, compelling, highly fleshed out character & he had some brilliant lines. In fact, Captain Hook uttered my favourite line in the entire film. “You find me a child who truly knows the difference between right and wrong. And I’ll show you a man who can’t remember why it mattered in the first place.”
This readaptation focused a lot on Wendy & her readiness to grow up. At the beginning of the film she does not feel ready, which prompts her to wish to go to Neverland in the first place.
I thoroughly enjoyed this modern take on Wendy. The character of Wendy in the original is a young girl who is quite looking forward to growing up & she is happy to envision herself as a mother to the Lost Boys, she also looks forward to being like her own mother & having a family some day. It is important to remember that the original version of this tale was prominently popular in the 19th century so Wendy’s wishes reflect the societal view of what was appropriate for women to aspire to at that time. In this version, Wendy is still maternal in the sense that she loves her younger brothers & she cares for them. She also comforts & sings to the Lost Boys, but in this readaptation, Wendy confidently states that she’s not even sure if she wants to be a mother someday. I found this refreshing as the change didn’t strip Wendy of her maternal nature altogether, as one can be maternal if they are not a mother & one can care for children without wanting their own, but this change did not rule out the possibility of her ever wanting children in the future as she has yet to grow up to see what the future holds & how she feels. It felt remarkably nuanced & nuance is something that these Disney readaptations in particular often lack. I also felt like her apprehension around going off to boarding school & growing up felt authentic. She was excited about all that there is to come, but she was also nervous about the impending changes & this felt extremely realistic.
As I said above, this version gives audiences a more fleshed out Captain Hook, one that was once a friend of Peter Pan’s. The two boys played together & shared adventures around Neverland until Captain Hook, who back then was simply James, decided that he missed his mother. He was just a boy after all. James wanted to go home, so he was banished by Peter Pan, but he never made it home. Instead he was found & raised by pirates & eventually he grew up to be the infamous Captain Hook. I’ve said it in a point above, but it is worth repeating, Jude Law stole the show. He played the part with great depth & I was drawn in by his performance.
When this film began, I predicted that the pirates may be my favourite & I was right.
The atmosphere created on the pirate ship was fantastic. The fact that this film incorporated sea shanties was brilliant. The music was fantastic. The singing, chanting pirates created a rich, magical atmosphere & I must say that seeing Skull Rock was brilliant.
Now I have arrived at the point of Peter Pan himself. While I enjoyed that this film focused on Wendy & Hook, & Tigerlily to a certain extent (she plays a huge role in helping Wendy in the final battle), there were, in my opinion, some drawbacks that came with this choice.
Alexander Molony played the role of Peter Pan & while I think he did a good job with the material, I felt like he was largely absent for quite a lot of the film & when he was onscreen, I felt that he didn’t command my attention in the way that the role of Peter Pan needs to.
I’m not sure what age Molony was during filming, but his version of Peter Pan felt very young & he seemed really childish in certain scenes – which could have been a direction choice & if so, this would make sense due to what this version did with the character, but I’ll admit that while watching I could not help but think of Jeremy Sumpter.
Jeremy Sumpter played Peter Pan in the 2003 live action adaptation of Peter Pan. I can admit that I may be biassed as this was the version of the story that I grew up watching, & Sumpter may have been older, but I just felt he was so much more commanding in the role. Peter Pan is a mischievous, somewhat spoiled, idealistic, heroic, freedom loving character & he is supposed to be charming & hopeful even though at the end of the story, Wendy & the others are always meant to return home. Molony’s delivery was quieter. I will restate that this could have been a director decision so I am not blaming the actor as that would be unfair. He looked great in the role & he played his key scenes with a quiet, gentle sincerity, especially towards the end of the film, however there were some moments that this quieter approach just did not work. A great example is the iconic sword fight scene between Captain Hook & Peter Pan that takes place at the film’s climax. Captain Hook & his pirates have taken Wendy, Tink, & the Lost Boys captive, we as the audience are supposed to feel like all is lost as Peter Pan has been beaten, but then when Peter Pan arrives to fight Hook, we’re supposed to be thrilled to see him. We’re supposed to cheer. Our excitement should mirror the excitement of Wendy & the Lost Boys, but in this version, Wendy was given a much more active role in the sword fight, she grabs a sword herself & tackles some pirates so when Peter Pan arrives again, I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed. Instead of cheering for him, I kind of felt like Wendy was doing fine on her own & I’d rather the film allow her to have this fight for herself since the plot focused more on her anyways. Having Peter Pan come back to fight Captain Hook felt slightly out of place. It felt like the film was going in a fresh direction, but then someone said, “No wait, we have to have the iconic fight scene between Peter Pan & Captain Hook.”
This point leads me to the one other critique I have about the plot. As I’ve already stated, this readaptation focused more on Wendy & Captain Hook, especially Hook as his backstory felt tragic & misunderstood instead of downright evil. Wendy talks a lot about the idea of “growing up wrong,” as Peter Pan insists that if you grow up, you’ll end up evil like Captain Hook, & this mode of thinking highlights his immaturity. Wendy realises that growing up does not automatically mean that one will end up like Captain Hook, she states that he grew up wrong. Again, this is a very nuanced take from Wendy & it felt like the plot was leading up to an interesting plot point – Captain Hook grew up to be a resentful, bitter adult because of being banished by Peter Pan & because of being raised by pirates. The focus on having Wendy & Captain Hook discuss his banishment from Neverland, all because “he dared to miss his mother,” (paraphrased), & the fact that Wendy tells Captain Hook that he was just a boy & it was only natural that he missed his mother felt like the film was setting up Peter Pan to be the bad guy as there are subtle hints that the Lost Boys also miss home, & miss their mothers, but Peter Pan shuts the conversation down whenever it arises. He is also upset & angry that Wendy does not love Neverland. She wants to grow up, she wants to be more than she is now & Peter Pan cannot accept that.
In my opinion, it seemed like the film was gearing up to be much more nuanced overall in tone, with Hook not being a villain just for the sake of it & instead having him be hurt & angry about Peter Pan’s actions, while also perhaps highlighting that Peter Pan & Neverland are not as wonderful as they seem. I won’t go as far as to say that the film was going to call Peter Pan the bad guy outright, but the film was definitely gearing up to state that he was not totally innocent in his feud with Captain Hook. It felt like the film’s narrative was being set up to go in one direction, but then perhaps this idea about a more nuanced take didn’t get a green light further on in the production process, because while watching it felt like the film was gearing up to do something different, but ultimately had to allow Peter Pan to return at the end to fight Hook & have his iconic sword fight in which he is cheered on as the heroic, hopeful figure.
Now I will say that there is a moment where Peter Pan does apologise to Captain Hook for hurting him, & the film ends with Peter Pan returning to Neverland as always & he & Captain Hook share a knowing smirk. Their game will begin again because it must, it always does, for there is no Peter Pan without Captain Hook & vice versa. On one hand I like this idea, I like imagining that these two know what their roles on Neverland are & they play them out each time, but underneath it all there is a fondness that comes with knowing someone such a long time – for as the story goes, generations of Wendy’s family return to Neverland again & again, each of them having their magical adventure before returning home to grow up so the story of Peter Pan & Captain Hook will inevitably play out over & over again too. I like this thought because at the end of the film, there is an implication that Wendy’s own mother has been to Neverland too because when asked “who is that boy?,’ she, with a knowing smile, says, “Peter Pan.”
So yes, on one hand I like the idea that Peter Pan & Captain Hook know their roles on Neverland & choose to play them accordingly, however on the other hand, part of me wishes that the film had have been able to commit to going with a darker, more nuanced tone overall, simply because an entirely fresh take would have been extremely interesting.
The themes of Peter Pan & Wendy, naturally, were all about the idea of growing up & being ready to do so. The film discussed ideas around the fear of growing up, while also discussing the idea of looking forward to all that comes with maturity – the classic themes that are always discussed when the tale of Peter Pan is told. Due to the backstory between Peter Pan & Captain Hook, the film also delved into themes of loss & betrayal. Peter Pan felt betrayed by Captain Hook & vice versa. Captain Hook felt an immense sense of loss because he missed his mother & then he never made it home again, so all these years later he is still missing her. He is also angry & hurt because of the way he was treated by Peter Pan.
I would argue that the film hinted at discussing the idea of nature vs nurture because there is an emphasis placed on how Captain Hook “grew up wrong.” I think this would have been interesting if they had gone into more details when discussing how Captain Hook really could not have escaped becoming the man he is today due to being found & raised by pirates as people are usually products of their upbringings & it can be hard to break out of cycles/habits that we’ve been taught all our lives. I think it would have been interesting if Captain Hook had have let Wendy & the Lost Boys go rather than proceed to make them walk the plank as this would have shown him breaking the cycle & stepping away from his archetypal, preformulated role in this story – however a notion such as this might be too complex for what this film was, which was a Disney readaptation. I do not say this in an insulting way, but there are certain boundaries that Disney films must abide by whereas a different production company could have afforded to perhaps take more risks with the tale & try new things that would inevitably go in a somewhat darker direction.
A point that I really enjoyed was Wendy’s personal growth. At the beginning of the film when she is hesitant to grow up & embrace the changes that are coming her way, when she thinks happy thoughts in order to be able to fly, all of her thoughts are memories of when she was little. She envisions herself as younger, as she considers her past to be the happiest time in her life, but then, at the film’s climax when she is forced to walk the plank, she never hits the water because her happy thoughts allow her to fly. This time though, all of her happy thoughts are looking forward, she envisions herself growing up, going to school, making new friends, having a joyful home, and the last image she sees is one of her as an older woman with a smile on her face. This scene made me emotional. I thought it was a really well done, poignant moment because while life is full of ups & downs, & change can be scary, life is long & you never know what is around the corner. I thought that a scene that showed a young woman looking forward & being so excited about it was really lovely. This moment, this use of showing her happy thoughts was also the perfect way to illustrate & show, not tell us as the audience how Wendy has grown.
Overall I would recommend this film. I had fun watching it. I believe that Peter Pan & Wendy is the best Disney readaptation that has graced the screens in a long time. It was fun, there was a great atmosphere, & the cast was very strong. It was a familiar, beloved story retold with some welcomed changes & even though I do wish that the plot could have followed through with some of the more nuanced ideas that I believe it was setting up, I really enjoyed this take on the story anyways. I loved what they did, I just wish they had gone even further with it.
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This film was directed by Martin McDonagh. It was released in October of 2022.
Spoilers Ahead – Consider yourselves warned.
I will also say now that I believe this review and discussion may be slightly more serious in tone, simply because of the themes that are explored in The Banshees of Inisherin.
I found this film very moving. I found it very emotional. I was crying silently while sitting on my sofa and then a few moments later, another scene had me chuckling. I’ve heard some people say that they dislike this film, some said they found it too long, or boring, and I understand that. I will say now that I would consider this film to be one of those films that you either really enjoy, or you really hate. Personally I loved it. I thought it was extremely thought-provoking, and full of some really beautiful, and subtly poignant performances.
I’ll admit, I’m probably slightly biassed, but I thought that the cast was brilliant.
I’m already a fan of Colin Farrell’s work, but I think this could go down as one of his very best roles. I thought his performance was beautiful, and I will be discussing a key scene later on in this review.
The film stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as Pádraic and Colm. Set on the fictional Inisherin, an island off the west coast of Ireland, at the end of the Irish Civil War in 1923, this film follows Pádraic in his devastation when he learns that Colm does not want to be his friend anymore.
I want to pause here for a moment so that I can talk about this idea. This idea of an entire film being about the breakdown and loss of friendship, particularly the friendship of two grown men, is what drew me in and made me want to watch this film in the first place. Friendships can be essential relationships. We see so many stories about romantic relationships, about family dynamics, but friendships are a really interesting dynamic. You can have lifelong friends, and these people can become as close as family, making new friends, especially as an adult can be challenging, it can also be really exciting. It can be difficult to maintain friendships, especially when you move beyond school or college because you’re no longer in the same place every single day. It is hard to see people when you live far apart, or if you have conflicting work schedules, or if you’re trying to balance family life with work life, friendships can silently slip into the background and this can be very sad.
The idea of living in a remote place, where everyone knows everyone and every day is the same and having a lifelong friend tell you that they just don’t like you anymore, is a concept that I think is brilliant. At its core, that is what this film is about. Colm tells Pádraic that he just “doesn’t like him no more.” Pádraic has not done anything to him. He has not said anything to him. He has not offended him in any way, but Colm has decided he just does not want to be friends anymore. It is so simple, and yet, this core idea allowed The Banshees of Inisherin to explore some really poignant themes.
Pádraic lives with his sister Siobhán. Siobhán is played by Kerry Condon and I must say that she played this part wonderfully. They live a quiet, lonely life in Inisherin. Their parents have passed away so the pair only have each other. Pádraic is kind and well-liked. He is a hard worker. He loves his little donkey Jenny and to Siobhán’s dismay, he even lets her inside their small cottage.
He is not a perfect person, but he is honest and kind. Colm says he is dull and dim, and Pádraic worries that he is in fact dull and dim, but ultimately he is a kind, earnest man.
Colm is a musician. He lives alone with his dog and he has decided that he would like to spend the rest of his days peacefully composing music. Colm wishes to leave a legacy. He wishes to be remembered when he is no longer on this earth. This longing to be remembered is what prompts him to tell Pádraic that he does not want to be friends anymore. Colm’s character is challenging to write about because I am conflicted. In the beginning, I thought that he was being rather harsh, but I could understand where he was coming from. Everyone has a right to live their life in the way that they see fit. Colm has decided that he has about twelve years of life left and he would like to spend them peacefully. He has the right to decide he does not want to be friends with Pádraic anymore, we all have the right to decide who we spend our time with, but as the film went on, I found myself deeply disliking Colm as a character. I find him arrogant and rude, and very mean at times. I think he is a great character in terms of discussion, his actions and his beliefs open up the themes explored in this film. His actions prompted a brilliant discussion when the film was over so I do think his character serves an excellent purpose, but I don’t like this kind of character.
I need to mention Barry Keoghan because he stole this film in my opinion. He played the role of Dominic Kearney, the son of Garda Peadar Kearney (A police officer for any readers not from Ireland.) Dominic is a character who I would liken to Sammy in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers.
He is the kind of character who never really had a chance. Dominic is not the brightest torch, he does not always say the right thing. Sometimes he can be infuriating because of how badly he puts his foot in his mouth, but he has no malicious intentions. He tries to be a friend to Pádraic. He tries to help him through the devastation of the loss of Colm’s friendship. He has a schoolboy crush on Siobhán and he earnestly admits this to her even though he knows that she will never return his feelings. This scene between these two actors was beautiful. My heart went out to Dominic when he confessed his feelings because you could see it all over his face that he already knew he would be rejected, and the way Kerry Condon played Siobhán in this scene was so lovely. She was so kind and so gentle, and she let him down with such grace. She did not laugh or scoff at him, she did not recoil. She just very simply, and very kindly told him that she doesn’t feel the same way. It was a really touching scene. Dominic is abused by his father, and this seems to be a known secret in Inisherin. People feel sorry for Dominic, but his father holds all of the power. I found Keoghan’s performance incredibly earnest and endearing. My heart went out to Dominic and I was devastated by how his arc played out – I’ll return to this in a later point.
Before diving into discussing the themes of this film, I want to talk about the backdrop of the Irish Civil War. I believe this setting is crucial to the film. I don’t think that this film would be the same without the heaviness of war going on in the background. The island is safe. It is far away from the mainland. We see the bright flashes of shots being fired from across the sea, but the Civil War is on the mainland. We are given this idea that Inisherin is a place that belongs to itself. It is removed from the frontlines. If you wanted to, I’m sure you could pretend the Civil War was not happening, but news from the mainland is always a source of curiosity. There is a present fear lurking underneath it all, and I think this is essential to the film. Life is changing. People are fighting. People are dying. People are reevaluating what they want and what is important to them. The tensions and the dangers and the fighting is likely what caused Colm to reevaluate his time and the meaning of his life in the first place. I don’t think the film would have the same impact without this setting.
Let’s discuss the themes of this film. I believe that the themes of this film are ideas of friendship and loss. Ideas of legacy and exploring one’s sense of self. Ideas of loneliness and departure, and ideas of the importance of being remembered vs the importance of being kind. I also think that there is a King Lear quality to both Pádraic and Colm. Pádraic really struggles to accept that Colm does not want to be his friend. He desperately wants things to go back to the way they once were. He cannot understand or accept Colm’s rejection, and his desire to be friends again becomes more and more desperate as the film goes on and he becomes more and more frustrated.
At times viewers may think “My God, just leave the man alone,” but it is not that easy to be rejected for no reason at all. It is also clear to see that this sense of loss and the grief that Pádraic feels causes him to suffer with depression. He is lonely and he is hurt, and nothing can fill that void.
The loneliness gets worse when Siobhán moves to Dublin. Siobhán has nothing left on Inisherin. She loves her brother but her life is empty and lonely. She decides to do something for herself and take a library job in Dublin. The scene where she gets on the boat is a lovely moment. She is wearing a bright yellow coat, which visualises how hopeful she is as it is such a bright colour. This is a great example of how visually stunning this film is. It is full of wide shots of very scenic landscapes. The island feels broad and open, yet sparse all at once.
Siobhán is nervous but excited as she leaves and even though she is sad to leave Pádraic behind, she knows that this is something she must do. Pádraic tries his best to be happy for her, but at night he cries in his bed and wishes she would come home. The emptiness of Pádraic’s days are really emphasised, which only adds to his desperate need to make up with Colm.
Colm’s arc is also one that slowly descends into madness. At the beginning of the film, he seems to be the sensible one even if he seems a bit harsh. He just wants to play the fiddle and compose a song, and as the film goes on he becomes increasingly angry and frustrated that Pádraic cannot seem to just leave him alone. He tells Pádraic that every time he bothers him again, he will take his shears and chop off a finger. Pádraic thinks that he cannot be serious, but Colm was extremely serious. When yet another attempt at reconciliation goes awry, Colm does indeed take his shears and he chops off a finger. He leaves the finger at Pádraic’s house. The film keeps moving and Colm loses all of his fingers. This is where I would liken his arc to the arc of King Lear as Colm is a man who is so obsessed with his own ideas, with his own self-importance, that he is actively destroying himself to make a point. He can no longer play the fiddle, and this is not Pádraic’s fault. Colm’s decision to actually chop off his fingers in order to prove that he is serious is no one’s fault but his. He did not have to go so far, he did not have to be so violent, but he is obsessed with leaving a legacy and being remembered. Being the man who cut off limbs to prove a point is a sure way to make sure that you’re remembered.
I want to talk about a key scene. There is a moment where Pádraic is furious and he decides to confront Colm in the pub. Colm is sitting with Peadar, Dominic’s father who is excited to go to the mainland to witness an execution. Pádraic confronts Colm, he demands to know what is going on. This is when Colm tells Pádraic that he is dull. He is dim, and his conversations bore him. Colm wants to be great, he wants to be remembered. He is a music lover and he wants to be like Mozart, he wants his music to be played centuries later and he won’t build that legacy if he is having dull conversations with Pádraic. Pádraic tells him that he is not nice. He used to be nice, but now he worries that he was actually never nice at all.
Colin Farrel delivers a brilliant performance. It actually moved me to tears. He says that he may be dull, but he is nice, he says his sister Siobhán is nice and he’ll remember her. He remembers his parents, they were nice. He asks Colm what does it say about him if he would rather sit with Peader, a man who beats and molests his own son than him? Colm is unmoved by Pádraic’s words, he says that no one will remember Siobhán because she has not done anything great. He wants to be great. It is a mean and nasty thing to say and I was cheering for Siobhán when she corrected Colm and told him that Mozart toured in the 18th century, not the 17th as he had said.
If he is going to so arrogantly proclaim that he wants to be like Mozart, he should at least get the century right.
This is why I disliked Colm, despite appreciating how his role functioned in the story. I do appreciate how his arc has allowed me to explore some very poignant themes. I don’t like the way Colm decided that his longing to be “great” gives him the right to treat people poorly. He so arrogantly declared that Pádraic is dull, but as Pádraic rightly pointed out, he was happy to still sit beside a man who brashly and brutally beats his own son. I can tell you which man I would rather sit beside, and I’ll give you a hint, it certainly is not Peadar.
There was absolutely no need to be so nasty to Siobhán and declare that she is not important enough to ever be remembered. All of Colm’s actions are focused on the after. He wants to be remembered when he is gone, he wants to leave a legacy, but he never stops to think about the way he is behaving in the present. His actions and his words are causing grief and pain in the present, and this idea that he suddenly had about wanting to be great does not surpass the importance of treating people with kindness and respect. I can appreciate that if this happened then there would be no film, but I am discussing this character in depth, so I will say that there was no reason as to why Colm could not have still been friends with Pádraic and treated him kindly. He could have drank with him less. He could have told Pádraic that he does not want to drink every day, he could have said that he wants to spend more time on his music. He could have still composed his song without being so extreme – however if he did this then there would be no plot, but hopefully you understand the point that I am making.
Peadar is furious that Pádraic announced the way he abuses his son to everyone at the pub. He plans to kill him. He intends to beat him severely, but on his way to Pádraic’s house, he is stopped by Mrs O’Riordan.
I am calling Mrs O’Riordan the banshee of Inisherin. Banshees are an important part of Irish folklore. They are said to be female spirits who announce when to expect a death, as they shriek or wail. If you hear a banshee wailing, someone will die soon – so the legends say.
Mrs O’Riordan is an old woman in the village who always wears black. She is a mysterious figure who seems to just observe all that is going on. Colm writes a song entitled “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Pádraic says there are no banshees on Inisherin. Colm says he thinks there are, only they don’t wail. They stand back watching everything, quiet and amused. It is a great description and it is one that fits Mrs O’Riordan perfectly.
Mrs O’Riordan interrupts Peadar when he is on his way to beat/kill Pádraic. She brings him to the lake and when Peadar looks into the water, he is looking down at the body of his son Dominic. He is lying faceup, dead in the water. His eyes are wide open and around his neck there is a hook. In Dominic’s first scene, he is showing Pádraic this hook, saying that it is a great hook that can be used for hooking all sorts of things. Peadar seems to be filled with emotion when he sees his dead son, although we never get verbal confirmation that he regrets mistreating him.
Dominic’s death broke my heart. I wanted more for him. I wanted him to find happiness. I thought his arc was one of a lifetime of sadness. He never had a chance. Again, Barry Keoghan’s performance was fantastic. It was subtle, and quiet, and so devastating. It is a complex part and it could have easily been a really annoying one. This young lad who always seems to put his foot in his mouth could have been a character that we dreaded seeing, but instead Keoghan played Dominic in a really nuanced way. He does want to be Pádraic’s friend, he does try to help, he does say the wrong thing a lot, but he is kind. He is trying. He just wants some warmth and some love. He is devastated when Pádraic lets him down, he says that he thought Pádraic was different, but he is just like all the rest. There was a deep sadness to Dominic and Keoghan portrayed that beautifully. A part like this could have slipped into the background but Keoghan’s portrayal of Dominic stood out and it stuck with me for a long time.
The thing that brings things to a head is when Pádraic’s donkey Jenny dies because she choked on one of Colm’s fingers. Pádraic is devastated and he is furious. He says that it is time to make things even. Colm has gone too far. He tells Colm that he is going to burn down his house while he is in it. He tells Colm to leave his dog outside, because he has nothing against his dog.
Jenny’s death highlights how out of line Colm’s actions are. His actions and his obsession with leaving behind a legacy has hurt and killed a living thing. He has caused extreme despair in Pádraic’s life. Colm goes to confession, and he asks if God cares about little donkeys.
The priest says that he fears God doesn’t care about little donkeys. Colm says he fears that is where everything went wrong. This is a fantastic line, it is a really poignant moment. Colm wins me back slightly in this moment because he realises that he has done wrong, and he is genuinely sorry about what happened to Jenny. He realises that his longing to leave a legacy was not worth hurting Pádraic this much.
Pádraic does burn the cottage down and he does take the dog, sticking to his word to not do the dog any harm, but he does not actually commit murder because Colm is alive and well standing on the beach the next day. He thanks Pádraic for looking after his dog and he apologises for what happened to Jenny, he says that he really is sorry about that. It seems they have come to a truce.
The film ends with the two men commenting that it seems as though the Civil War is coming to an end, and along with it, it seems that their feud has ended too.
This film moved me. I thought it was beautiful. It made me think about the importance of relationships in my life. I thought about how much I think it is important to be present in the moment, because if we are too focused on the after then we can miss things that are happening in the present. It is absolutely fine to want to do great things. It is fine to have passions, it is fine to want to leave a legacy, but arrogantly deciding that some people are not worth your time is not okay. Being kind and being a decent person is always important. People talk about “being kind,” online all the time, to the point that it can sound flippant, but it is important. I would rather be remembered as someone who was kind and warm, instead of being remembered as someone who was good at xyz, but not that nice. The Banshees of Inisherin is a beautiful, moving film that brings human emotions to the surface and lays them bare. In many ways, it is so simple, and yet it is a film that dives into very complex themes. It is a poignant story told by a talented cast. It is storytelling at its finest.
This film was directed by Morton DaCosta. It was released in 1962.
I would call this film a classic, no questions asked. It is cheeky, it is funny, and Harold Hill is a character who you won’t forget in a hurry.
If you enjoy films like Singing in the Rain and Meet Me in St. Louis, then The Music Man will be right up your alley. I love films like this. I don’t exactly know why. I love the costumes and I’m a big fan of musicals, but there’s something else about this kind of film that I really enjoy.
I think it’s the element of pure escapism. This film is fun, it is bright, the songs are fantastic, and there’s enough conflict to keep the plot engaging, but overall it is just a lighthearted watch. Perfect for a rainy day.
As always, there will be spoilers in this discussion. Consider yourself warned.
Let’s dive into the plot. I think this film is very straightforward. The entire story revolves around Harold Hill. Hill is a charming con man and his biggest con to date is travelling around posing as a music teacher. He gets small towns all excited about the idea of a boys’ band. He sells band uniforms, instruments, sheet music, all with the promise that he is going to lead the best boys’ band these towns have ever seen. Here’s the catch, Harold Hill cannot teach music because he does not know how to play. He cannot read a note. That is how he makes his money. He cons the people of the town into spending a small fortune on their children and then he takes off.
The film is set in Iowa, in the small town of River City. River City is the next stop on Hill’s list.
He plans to con everyone in River City just like he has done many times before.
This time though, Hill is not so lucky because the Mayor is suspicious of him and spends the entirety of the film chasing Hill for his credentials. Hill also was not prepared to meet Marion, the librarian and piano teacher in town. Marion is not impressed by Hill’s smooth talking, she sees through him from the start. Hill certainly was not prepared to find himself smitten, but now he will risk ruining his schemes and getting caught so that he might have a chance at winning her heart.
Marion is smart, stubborn, and knows her own mind. She has fallen victim to small-town gossip. Everyone has something to say about the fact that she inherited the library and the fact that she has not married yet. I will say, it is always slightly strange when watching films from a different time period as the age of when people married was significantly younger than what is common today. So it was slightly funny watching everyone treat this young woman as if she was far too old to ever find love. This is why context, especially the context of setting, is so important.
The other main character is Tommy. He is a teenager in River City. He is labelled a “troublemaker” by the adults of the town, again this is funny because we never really see him do anything bad aside from when he pranks one of his teachers. The prank in question being that he causes a loud noise at the school prep rally. Tommy is a good kid at heart. He has a crush on Zaneeta, the Mayor’s daughter, and throughout the film he helps Harold Hill dodge the Mayor and he ends up being front and centre of the boys’ band.
Mrs Paroo, Marion’s mother, also features in the story. She is an Irish woman (the accent is questionable) and she is hopeful that Marion will find someone who makes her happy. While she hopes her daughter will be lucky in the land of love, she also encourages Marion’s independence and her love of literature. She also worries about her son Winthrop. Winthrop is a quiet boy who has a very prominent lisp. He struggles with his self-confidence because of this lisp, so Marion (despite her suspicions) and her mother hope that he will gain confidence if he joins Harold Hills’ boys’ band.
In summary, this is a story about a con man in a small town. He thinks he is going to make a quick buck, but the people of River City pull on his heartstrings. He can’t con them. He ends up finding love and family in the place where he thought he’d find easy money.
It is the perfect setup with the perfect combination of characters.
The small town where everyone knows everyone. A confident, charming stranger waltzes in and ends up finding everything he didn’t know he wanted. A nosey Mayor who is determined to foil this stranger’s plans. A confident, independent woman who sees through all the well-versed con talk, and ends up finding someone who is a great match for her. The teenage Tommy and Zaneeta, the young couple who we are all rooting for. Great music, great choreography, and witty dialogue, all of these elements combine to make a perfect, lighthearted story that really never gets old.
Let’s talk about the themes of the film. I think that it is easy to say that the themes of this film are the ideas of family, love, and finding the place where one belongs. I would also say this film shows how music can bring people together, and on a slightly more serious note, this film does demonstrate how moral panic can be created in order to manipulate a willing crowd – although this is done in a very humorous way.
Harold Hill was money hungry. He never cared about the towns he flew through or the people he conned, he never gave it a second thought until the people in River City opened his eyes and opened his heart. A conscience develops over the course of the film. He falls in love with Marion, he wants to be with her. He has formed a friendship with Tommy and he wants everyone in town to see that he really is a good kid. He wants Winthrop to gain confidence too and he is ecstatic just like everyone else when he starts to speak more and more.
His life becomes about more than just money. He finally finds the place where he belongs and the people he belongs with.
Marion dreams of finding that special someone. Despite her suspicions of him, she finds herself growing very fond of Harold Hill. He has brought a sense of excitement to town and to her quiet life. She is delighted to see her mother and brother so happy. She is overjoyed when Winthrop starts speaking. Harold Hill is a great change of pace from the gossip in her life. She finds that he has expanded the horizons of the town, he has gotten people excited, he has gotten people talking. He has created a sense of community through music even though he does not know how to play. She finds her match. She can be herself with Harold. She can be independent, keep her job, she can still enjoy her books and her life, but now she has found someone to share it with.
Before I talk about how music brings people together, I would like to talk about the creation of chaos. The people of River City live quiet lives. It is a quiet town. There is really nothing to do but gossip until the day Harold Hill comes along. I think the most iconic song in the film is “Ya Got Trouble.” Harold Hill learns that a billiards table has just arrived in town. The Mayor owns the billiard hall. Harold needs to get the people in this stubborn small town interested in a boys’ band, more importantly, he needs to get these people willing to spend money on a boys’ band so he creates the idea that the billiard table is a huge problem waiting to happen. He causes a huge stir, we’ve got trouble he sings. Right here in River City. A billiard table is the gateway to gambling. The youth are at risk, we must think of the children and keep them away from the billiard hall. What better way to keep the kids moral after school than having them join a boys’ band? It is genius. It is so funny, the song is so catchy. It is incredibly quick. It is almost a tongue-twister to perform, but Harold Hill does it with style and elegance. He is a master of wordplay. He uses his quick-thinking and sharp wit to cause a frenzy. Suddenly everyone wants their kids out of the hall and in the band. They’ve done exactly as Harold Hill wanted them to do. This film demonstrates in a lighthearted, but clever way, how manipulation happens.
This is how con men get away with it. They create panic, they create a problem where it does not exist, they cause a stir, and then they gain people’s confidence. I think one of the easiest ways to get someone to do something is to convince them that if they don’t do it then their kids will be in danger. I would say it is fair to assume that everyone wants the best for their children. Harold Hill even calls out to the mothers in town in his song, and now he has got people twisted in another way – If you’re a good mother, a good and moral mother, you’ll have your children in the boys’ band, because this shows how much you care for them. It is a brilliant tactic. This is a very lighthearted film, and all of this is achieved in a witty, musical way, but it is still a great, visual example of how moral panic is created and how mob mentality is fuelled. “We Both Reached For The Gun,” in Chicago is another fun, witty example of how people can be masterfully manipulated into believing something. I tend to think about “We Both Reached For The Gun,” when I hear “Ya Got Trouble,” and vice versa.
The uniting power that music has is evident in this film. Music brings the entire town together even though it all started out as a scam. Harold Hill believes in the “thinking method.” The idea is if you think about something enough then you’ll be able to do it. That is how he avoids teaching the children any music. He tells them that first they have to think about playing.
His confidence is very funny. Harold Hill does bring people together by bringing music into their lives, even though he did not do it on purpose. He sets up a barbershop quartet. The men who used to argue are now the best of friends who enjoy singing together and everyone in town loves to listen. He reminds the Mayor’s wife about how much she enjoys dancing. He gets everyone in town excited about the idea of a band, from the youngest of kids to all of the adults. Marion even points out how even if he did lie about his qualifications, and even if his intentions were originally to con people, he did still bring new life to the place. There is a bit of movie magic at the end. The boys’ do play their instruments despite never being taught how to play. Now to be fair, they don’t play them extremely well, but they do play them and that is a start. There is nowhere to go but onwards and upwards, especially now that Harold Hill is turning over a new leaf. The film ends with everyone in town enjoying a musical parade. The boys’ band struts down the town streets in their bright uniforms, playing their instruments proudly. It is bright, jolly, and lots of fun.
I also want to give a special mention to the song “76 Trombones.”
It is a great song. It always gets stuck in my head any time I hear it. It is so catchy.
I think it is a song that just lifts any mood and gets you humming. It is a song that I would love to hear played live by a full orchestra. The Music Man is a film that I would love to see a full-stage musical adaptation of. I think it would be stunning in a theatre.
Overall I think The Music Man is lots of fun. It is an easy watch. I think it is perfect for a rainy day. It is a little long as the run time is two and a half hours. Personally I don’t mind this, but I know that not everyone enjoys films that are this long. I’ve recently heard a lot of people say that they dislike when a film is longer than an hour and a half so if you’re going to sit down and watch The Music Man, this could be something to keep in mind. If you are a lover of classic musicals then this film is a must watch!
Next week I will be reviewing and discussing The Banshees of Inisherin.
I found this film to be extremely powerful and at times hard to watch, so I am glad that this review is quite lighthearted and easy, as next week’s review and discussion will be more serious due to the nature of the themes explored in The Banshees of Inisherin.
After next week I will be switching things up and discussing some books and plays before returning to films. You can follow me on Instagram @katelovesliterature if you don’t already so that you can see what is coming up next here on Kateloveslitersature.com.
This review is the second part of my two-piece review set of Knives Out and Glass Onion.
As I said in my Knives Out review, these pieces were intended to complement each other, however they can also be read independently as I consider the films to be stand-alone pieces.
You do not have to watch Knives Out to understand Glass Onion, however I feel that Glass Onion steps beyond Knives Out.
This is a phrase I used in the first part of this review set, and it is a phrase that I will explain and expand upon now in part two.
Glass Onion was written and directed by Rian Johnson.
The film was released in September 2022.
I am going to talk about the plot, the characters, the themes, and I am going to talk about whether or not I prefer one film over the other. As always, these discussions are intended to be in-depth so there will be spoilers ahead. Consider yourselves fairly warned.
The only character to return to our screens is Detective Benoit Blanc. He is just as larger than life as he was when we were first introduced to him. I will admit now that I really like this character.
Glass Onion brings to our screens one of my favourite plot devices of all time – Get a group of people with wildly different personalities and trap them in a single location. Allow chaos to ensue.
This film takes place on a private island in Greece, owned by the ultra rich Miles Bron.
The plot is set into motion when he sends mysterious invitations to his friends. They are to join him on his private Greek island for a murder mystery party weekend where they will compete to solve his “murder.” Miles throws these kinds of parties every year, and the group seems delighted to receive invitations.
This brings me to breaking down our cast.
We meet Claire, the governor of Connecticut. She is running for the US Senate. She is uptight, and as the film plays out, we learn that every decision she makes is made with politics in mind.
We meet Lionel. Lionel is a head scientist who works at Miles’s company. Lionel’s co-workers appear to be questioning Miles when the film begins, and Lionel agrees that Miles and his ideas can be out there. Some lead to nothing, but some lead to massive success, and that is why he has the company. Lionel seems to be loyal to Miles and his ideas as he is hoping that the next seemingly “crazy” idea will be the next huge success.
We meet Birdie Jay. Birdie is a ditzy supermodel who is pretending to be a designer in Manhattan. Birdie prides herself on “telling it like it is,” and she doesn’t care if she says things that are politically incorrect and very offensive. She just wants to drink and enjoy herself in Greece.
Peg is Birdie’s assistant. She is trying her hardest to keep Birdie from ruining herself. She takes Birdie’s phone and attempts to dissuade her from posting awful things online. Peg is unfortunately in a bad position herself as her CV largely consists of working for Birdie, and because Birdie is so offensive, she and her CV are not popular either.
Duke Cody is a streamer and a self-proclaimed men’s rights activist. He gets a thrill out of upsetting people online by saying things that are considered wildly offensive and at times, downright misogynistic. In reality, he lives with his mother and she is not afraid to give him a smack if he attempts to give her cheek.
Whiskey is Duke’s girlfriend. She also works for him on his streaming platforms. As the film plays out, audiences learn that Whiskey is a lot smarter than people likely gave her credit for when the film began. The film wants audiences to believe that she is a “dumb blonde” when the film begins, and Whiskey also knows that this is what people assume about her, so she leans into the stereotype so that it will serve her while she is attempting to build a career.
The last two characters, the main characters whom this film revolves around are twin sisters, Helen and Andi. We’ll talk about them later.
All of these characters arrive on the island excited to participate in the murder mystery weekend.
Blanc, who has been itching for a new case is also delighted to be invited, only the plot thickens when Miles reveals that he did not send Blanc an invitation.
Now we must ask two questions.
Who sent Blanc the invite? Why did they send Blanc the invite? These are two key questions, as Blanc tells Miles that an anonymous invite is not to be messed with. Blanc observes the group and how they all know each other. The key piece of information to take note of is the fact that each member of the group is linked monetarily to Miles. He has financial control over each and every one of them. Blanc sees this power dynamic for what it is, and he tells Miles that everyone in the group has a reason to hurt him. He declares this is like “Putting a loaded gun on the table and turning the lights off.”
At dinner, Miles is giddy to kick off the murder mystery. He hired an author to write the mystery. He is so excited for everyone to take part. He keeps declaring that it will take them the entire weekend. Blanc debunks the mystery in two minutes, before the fake arrow has a chance to pierce Miles in the heart. It is a very funny scene. Blanc then declares that he wants to solve the real mystery, who invited him and why?
With the weekend-long mystery now solved, the group are deciding whether or not they will stay the entire weekend or if they will go home early. Miles wants them to stay, they can still have a great time. The music blares, the drinks are flowing. Birdie is dancing. Everyone is drunk and enjoying themselves, happy to stay and just have fun. The real plot begins when things take a horrible turn. Duke dies. At first everyone thought that he was choking, but there was nothing in his throat. He dies. He had just been drinking from a glass, so the next thought is what if he was was poisoned?
Another twist – Duke had taken a drink from Miles’s glass and not his own.
The two glasses were very similar. This means that Duke was not the target. Miles was.
Now Blanc’s original observations take the spotlight again. All members of this group have a motive to want Miles dead. So now Blanc must investigate who attempted to kill Miles.
Andi is the most likely suspect. Andi was Miles’s business partner and the co-founder of the company. When Andi did not agree with a business decision Miles was making, she threatened to walk away and take half of the company with her. Miles tampered with the contracts, causing her to lose her position entirely. Andi tried to sue, as she created their company and sketched out the plans on a napkin in their local bar years ago. Unfortunately, because she could not find the napkin before the trial, this was her word against his. The rest of the group corroborated Miles and his version of events, lying on the stand because of his monetary control over them. Andi lost the case, and lost everything with it, so it would be easy to assume that she wanted Miles dead as a form of revenge.
Before moving on to discuss the murder itself, the whodunit, I want to dive into the themes that this film explores. I would suggest that the main themes of Glass Onion are ideas of money and power, and ideas of relevance and integrity.
Miles is a figure who holds an enormous amount of power and wealth. He continuously uses his wealth to get his way, and his wealth allows him to exert power over the people in his life.
Miles is cocky and greedy, and he is a sinister type because he wants to come across as so chill, as so relaxed, as someone who loves his friends and just wants to have a good time. Underneath the chill exterior, there is a sinister level of control. What he says goes, because he is the one who funds everyone and everything, and he can make people’s lives come crashing down if they don’t do what he wants. Miles has a gigantic ego. He wants his name to go down in history beside the Mona Lisa. He wants to be immortal. He not only wants this, but he feels he deserves this level of glory.
The group is very interesting and the dynamics of the group make it very easy for the plot to explore these kinds of themes. They call themselves “the disrupters.” This is a group of people who pride themselves on causing disruption. They’re proud of themselves. They consider themselves to be a group of brave, unique people who are unafraid to disrupt the status quo.
They tell it like it is, they push the system, they step out over the edge. They’ve got guts!
They are frauds. Andi’s sister Helen says it best. “They call themselves disruptors, they’re shitheads!” (This is a paraphrased line.)
This point brings me to mentioning Andi’s twin sister Helen. What could be better than incorporating identical twins into a whodunit plot? Ah the hijinks that can ensue.
Hijinks do ensue. We learn that Andi is not Andi after all, instead Helen has taken her place on the trip and it was her who brought Blanc the invitation because she needed his help.
Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Andi is dead, and her death was ruled a suicide.
Helen is suspicious, she does not believe that her sister would kill herself. So she has a look on Andi’s computer. In court, Andi’s case fell through because she could not find the napkin that she drew the original idea for the company on. Miles lied and said he drew that napkin, and everyone else in the group lied on the stand. After the case, Andi found the original napkin, one that has the old bar’s logo embossed on it. This is a detail that the fake napkin Miles drew up does not have. This detail will prove that Andi was right and she will take Miles down. Before her death, Andi sent an email to everyone in the group to let them know that she found the napkin.
After this email, she ended up dead. Helen believes she was killed and she wants Blanc to help her uncover the truth.
I’m jumping between plot and themes, similar to how I did in my review of Knives Out.
The film jumps back and forth in time, and so I feel that the best way I can talk about the themes and how they are highlighted by the twists in the film is by jumping back and forth in my writing. I mentioned earlier that integrity is a major theme in this film.
Helen, Blanc, and Andi have integrity. Miles has none, and the rest of the disruptors have none for the majority of the film.
Miles wanted to get big bucks quickly, despite there being safety concerns and tests that need to be done. The huge idea that he wants to put forward is Alpha’s alternative fuel. Andi didn’t want this to go ahead because of the safety concerns. Lionel and Claire don’t want to launch just yet because there is still two years of testing to be done, Miles wants to introduce “Klear” to the world and he wants to do it now. He tells the group that his Greek island is running off the alternative fuel already so there is no need to do more tests.
Lionel and Claire are angry with Miles, but they are going to end up doing as he says because Lionel wants to keep his job, and Claire’s political career is bankrolled by Miles, and if she does not go along with his ideas, he will endorse her opponent. People’s safety is going to be compromised because this billionaire has no patience and he is determined to get his way.
Birdie has no integrity. She has no concept of follow-through. She is a “designer” who made bank after being cancelled during the pandemic, but it is all going to come crashing down because it is going to be revealed that her products were being made in a terrible sweatshop.
Miles has convinced Birdie to take full responsibility for this, as doing so will mean she takes the public fall and it would hide the fact that he was a major investor. Peg is desperately trying to get Birdie to reconsider, and we can see from their chats that Birdie really did not understand the full impact of what a sweatshop actually is. Birdie is ignorant, but she is willing to be cancelled and painted in a terrible public light because Miles is paying her off. She wants the money, she does not care if her character and reputation is ruined or if Peg’s is ruined with her. Birdie’s integrity is for sale.
Duke just wanted to be on Alpha news. He knows he says controversial and offensive things, but controversy is publicity, and he wants people tuning in. He doesn’t care if what he says hurts others, offends others, or teaches younger viewers problematic things. He is in this game for himself. Whiskey is the same.
This film really highlights how money can make people abandon their personal integrity.
When the disruptors lied on the stand, they could not even look Andi in the eye. So they knew what they were doing was wrong, but they sold their souls and morals to Miles a long time ago.
Helen just wants the truth. She wants to know what happened to her sister.
Blanc wants to help Helen find the truth, but he warns her that he may be unable to get her justice. The two form a plan. He will use his connections to stop Andi’s death from being in the press straight away, buying them some time. She will come to the party with him, and she can snoop. Someone there is Andi’s killer, and Blanc warns Helen that they will know straight away that she is an imposter. He is not a bodyguard, he warns her that this is a dangerous plan, but they decide the truth must be found.
Let’s talk about whodunit.
Miles did it. Are we shocked? I don’t think so. This entire film is about deceit being in plain sight. The entire film is an illusion of smoke and mirrors, and details being shown plainly to our faces. When the dancing started and Birdie was spinning around in her dress, Miles told everyone to look at the amazing colours in her dress. When everyone was distracted and looking where Miles told them to look, he handed Duke his glass. Something that I was impressed by, because yes, we did rewind the film to check, was that this was not done in later shots. This happened the first time we saw this scene. The glass never touches the table, Miles does hand his glass to Duke, but it is done silently and quickly while our attention was purposely directed to something else. Duke died due to an allergic reaction. There was pineapple juice in the drink, and he is allergic. Duke tells audiences this at the beginning as the group are getting on the boat. It is a throwaway moment, he makes sure there is no pineapple in the health shot they are being given because “Duke don’t dance with pineapple.” This is such a great line because it could simply mean that he does not like pineapple. This casual phrase does not illustrate how severe his allergy is. Whiskey clarifies later that he can’t even have a drop.
“It’s so dumb it’s brilliant!” Birdie shouts.
Blanc shouts back. “No!!!! It’s just dumb!!”
This might be my favourite exchange.
Miles is the killer twice over. It was him who killed Andi when he found out that she would expose him with the napkin. The news broke while the group was dancing. Duke saw the news on his phone, and leveraged the information so that Miles would have to put him on Alpha news.
Miles could not have this, so he gave Duke a drink that he was severely allergic to. Then he took Duke’s phone and his gun and turned off all the lights. This was Blanc’s idea. This action highlights what an absolute fraud Miles really is. He stole Andi’s idea. He bullies everyone financially even though he does the least amount of work. He hired a writer for his murder mystery, and then he stole Blanc’s idea about the gun and the lights to create panic and distraction. He also shot Helen, but thankfully the bullet missed. Playing dead gave her the opportunity to find the original napkin.
When Helen does find the napkin that was hidden in plain sight in a picture frame, she returns to the group to expose Miles. Miles, cocky as ever, burns the napkin. This destroys the only proof that Helen has. Helen attempts to stand up to Miles, she says everyone saw him burn it, but Miles says that nobody saw a thing, and everyone reluctantly agrees. They say they saw nothing. They are cowards. This is quite a dark moment in a darkly funny film, because this moment highlights how many real life situations sadly play out. The person with the money can bully and intimidate people into singing their tune, and everyone else is forced into the role of the coward who must forfeit their morals and their integrity because they need the money. Helen goes mad. She angrily destroys sculptures, and she sets the Mona Lisa on fire.
The world as Miles knows it comes crashing down. His fuel destroyed a priceless, globally renowned piece of art. Helen granted his wish. His name will always be remembered alongside the Mona Lisa. He is ruined. The disruptors stand up to Miles. They say that they did see the napkin before he burned it, highlighting that they will not be his puppets any longer.
Helen gets to go home feeling satisfied that she got justice for her sister.
I said earlier that this film steps beyond Knives Out.
What do I mean by this? Knives Out brought a classic whodunit to our screens. It was eccentric, it was quirky, it was a bit out there, but at the end of the day it was a revival of the classic whodunit murder mystery movie. It was set in the big creepy house on the hill and the story revolved around the rich, dysfunctional family. Glass Onion steps beyond what this first film does. It is bigger. It is even more out there. I would liken it to the theatre of the absurd. It takes place on a private island that is run by a new form of fuel. Shots fired into one’s mouth means that everyone could have a Covid-free, safe time. The place has an abundance of riches. It seems surreal. It is why I love the line that it is not brilliant, it is just dumb. This film does not do anything that is particularly genius. It all boils down to greed, ego, and parlour tricks. It is just dumb! That is why it is so much fun. It is a film that shows the plot right in front of our eyes, hidden behind smoke and mirrors, and then the entire illusion is shattered. Con men of the past would get people to fall for their schemes by using slights of hand, tricks of the eye, and most importantly, they would gain people’s confidence. Miles was the puppet master. He told everyone to look at the pretty spinning colours and they did, and if it was not for the presence of Blanc, it is likely that he would have gotten away with it because the gang were so taken in by his control.
I also said that I would decide if I preferred one film over the other,
I would have to say that Glass Onion is my favourite of the two films. I thought the plot was very clever and fun. I thought it was very funny. I enjoyed the new set of characters. I loved how out there and almost absurd the plot was. I loved how the film was shot. I loved the breakdown of how everything happened in plain sight, and I adored the irony of Miles getting his wish. He was knocked off his greedy, rich, controlling, cocky high horse and his name will forever be linked to the Mona Lisa. He got his dream, but now it is his nightmare and this was a fantastic moment. I loved seeing Blanc again and I look forward to seeing him in another film although I am curious about what the plot will be. There are only so many ways that you can tell a story like this, however I am intrigued to see where Blanc will go next. With all of this being said, I must say that even though I do prefer Glass Onion, I don’t think this film could have stepped into this wonderfully absurd arena without having the foundation that was laid down in Knives Out.
Knives Out subverted the tropes just enough, but there were classic murder mystery elements to the plot. That film laid down the groundwork, introduced audiences to Blanc and how he works, and that groundwork and our understanding of him as a character allowed him to step even further out there in Glass Onion. Overall I would highly recommend Glass Onion. I think it is a wonderfully absurd mystery that explores some really interesting themes. It is an extremely entertaining watch.
This film was released in 2019. It was written and directed by Rian Johnson.
This is an ensemble piece starring Daniel Craig as the eccentric master detective Benoit Blanc.
I would call this film a parody revival of the classic whodunit murder mystery movie genre, as this film takes classic murder mystery movie tropes and has fun playing with them, and in some cases, subverting them entirely.
This review is the first of a two-part review set. Next week I will be discussing Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. I would not call Glass Onion a direct or traditional sequel, but rather it is the second film in what appears to be a series of films all about Benoit Blanc and the bizarre cases he finds himself investigating. Benoit Blanc is the only character to return to the screen, as Glass Onion introduces audiences to an entirely new set of characters. This is why I would be hesitant to use the word sequel, as in my opinion, Glass Onion can be viewed, understood, and enjoyed as a stand-alone piece. It does not require viewers to have seen Knives Out first. With that being said, I do consider Glass Onion to be a film that steps beyond Knives Out, and I will explain what I mean by this phrase in next week’s discussion.
I consider this review and next week’s review to be a set. The two reviews have been written in a way that hopefully leads to each piece complimenting the other, however as the two films have entirely separate plots and casts, the reviews can also be read entirely independently.
I’ve been trying to decide whether or not I have a favourite film out of the two. It is hard to say, because I really enjoyed both films, and they are so different, however I think I appreciate them in different ways, instead of having a clear cut favourite, and this is another point that I will expand upon as I go on.
Let’s dive into Knives Out.
There will be spoilers ahead, so if you have not watched the film already, you have been warned.
I’m going to dive into a plot overview, and then dive into themes, the murder mystery genre idea, and character types.
The film opens with a stunning yet almost eerie shot of a large mansion that sits on a hill in the middle of nowhere. It is the home of Harlan Thrombey, a wealthy, eccentric mystery writer. How fitting. On the morning after Harlan’s 85th birthday party, Fran the housekeeper brings Harlan his breakfast, only to find him in his study with his throat slit.
The murder mystery movie classic tropes start here. We expect the maid to scream and drop the breakfast tray, followed by a shot of the coffee cup crashing on the carpet. Instead, Fran gasps, almost drops the tray and utters out a not very graceful “Shit!!!” as she realises she is spilling coffee. It is a very subtle thing, but this is the beginning of the tropes being played with.
Knives Out does something that I absolutely love. It is a film that knows what it is. It knows the tropes, it shows us the tropes, and it also has fun with them.
How many times have we seen the maid drop the tray? It is a classic shot, and here it is right at the start of the film, but ever so slightly different.
The detectives have ruled the case a suicide, but the eccentric and famous Benoit Blanc is on the scene. He is a private detective who has been anonymously hired, and he is not willing to close the case just yet. Something compels him to keep looking, and so this is how we get into the plot. The Thrombey family and Marta, Harlan’s nurse who is “like family” – this is a key line- have been gathered in the home for one final round of questions.
As Blanc starts asking each family member questions, it soon becomes clear that each member of the Thrombey family had a motive to kill Harlan. This is a home of vipers and vultures who will not hesitate to stab each other in the back – or maybe even slit a throat.
So now the film asks us, was this a suicide? Or was this a case of foul play?
Let’s take a look at the ensemble.
We’ve got Linda, played by Jamie Lee Curtis.
Linda is Harlan’s daughter. She is a “self-made” woman, just like him, and she idolises her father. Linda is proud of herself, proud of her father, and proud of the Thrombey name.
She is intelligent and guarded. She is highly protective of her family, and this is highlighted when she refuses to give into Blanc’s questioning.
Blanc uses a clever tactic, he asks politely probing questions, alongside observations. His goal is to get each family member to spill something about the other. Linda does not take the bait, but her husband Richard sure does.
Richard is a character that I will expand upon shortly in another point, as I’m going to discuss one of the key themes in the film, which is the idea of the “outsider”.
Richard reveals that Linda’s brother Walt had a fight with their father on the night of the party.
Walt runs Harlan’s publishing company and he publishes the books that his father writes.
Walt has dreams about adaptations and films, but Harlan owns the rights to all of his books, and he will not allow them to be adapted in any way. Walt is furious about this, as this is where the opportunity to earn real money lies.
On the night of Harlan’s birthday, Walt pleaded with his father again to allow him to do more in the company. Harlan says he won’t hold his son back anymore, and he is now free to build something for himself. Devastated that he has just been fired, Walt spends the rest of the night sulking.
Harlan Thrombey has three grandchildren. Ransom (Hugh), Meg, and Jacob.
Walt describes Ransom as the “black sheep” of the family because he has never had a job, yet Harlan has always supported him. He describes Harlan and Ransom’s relationship as a “love/hate” relationship and tells Blanc that Harlan and Ransom argued often and dramatically in front of the entire family, but on the night of Harlan’s birthday party, the pair argued privately in Harlan’s study and Ransom stormed off early.
Meg is a college student. She is the only person in the family who seems to genuinely like and respect Marta and Fran. She scolds a police officer for referring to Marta as “the help” and she scolds Ransom when he refers to Fran by the wrong name. Harlan supports Meg’s college education by paying for her tuition and giving her mother an allowance.
Jacob is a sixteen year old entitled brat. He is described as a “literal Nazi” by Richard, but his father Walt says he is “politically active.” It becomes increasingly obvious that Jacob has extreme views and as the film plays out, it is clear to see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
This point leads me to discussing Richard, Joni, and Marta, and one of the key themes in the film – The idea of the “outsider”.
Within the kooky, mysterious, eccentric, almost unbelievable story that is Knives Out, there are some very important, very topical themes being discussed. One of these themes is the idea of someone being an “outsider.” There are even “outsiders” within the Thrombey family.
Richard and Joni are outsiders. I am going to call them “familial outsiders” because they are the people who have married into the Thrombey family. Richard is Linda’s husband. He is Ransom’s father. Linda made Richard sign a prenup before they married, meaning that her fortune is hers and hers alone. It is revealed that Richard also argued with Harlan on the day of his party. Before his death, Harlan discovered that Richard has been having an affair and he plans to tell his daughter Linda all about it. Richard knows that if Linda finds out, she will leave him, and he will not enjoy her wealth anymore.
Joni is Harlan’s daughter-in-law. Joni is Meg’s mother. She married his other son Neil, who died shortly after Meg was born. Harlan looks after her and Meg by providing for them.
Joni also argued with Harlan on the day of the party. Harlan found out that Joni had been stealing from him because his office had been wiring money directly to Meg’s school, but tuition money was also being sent to Joni’s account. She was “double-dipping.” Harlan informed Joni that he would be cutting both her and Meg off and she would not receive another payment from him.
Donna is also an outsider. She is Walt’s wife, but we don’t learn too much about her, aside from the fact that she is money hungry and racist. Her character does not get much screen time.
Richard and Joni are familial outsiders because Richard is at the mercy of Linda. He signed a prenup, so his wealth is not actually his wealth. He is not really part of the elite circle. He knows that once Harlan reveals his affair, he is out. The family is clearly irritated by Joni. She is a free-spirit who loves meditation and yoga. She is very obviously too laid-back for the uptight Thrombey family and one can imagine that the only reason she is still included at all is because she is the mother of Harlan’s granddaughter. When Harlan cuts her off, she will be out too.
The plot thickens because now we know that Walt, Richard, and Joni are about to lose their money so all three of them have a motive to want Harlan harmed.
Marta Cabrera is Harlan’s nurse. She is kind, and loyal, and she became more of a friend to Harlan. The Thrombey family treat her as a true “outsider.” She is even more on the outside than Richard or Joni, because she is not connected to the family in any way. She is not married into the family. She is Harlan’s nurse, and while the family claim to like her, to love her even, they still keep her on the periphery because she is an employee.
The power imbalance is somewhat subtle at first. The family keeps telling Marta she is “like family.” They compliment her, they call her a good girl, and a hard worker, but as the film plays out, it becomes clear that they do not respect her at all. They do not consider her to be like family. When talking about Marta, each family member tells Blanc that she is from somewhere different. She is said to be from Paraguay, and then from Uruguay, from Ecuador, and from Brazil. This is a somewhat subtle detail, but it is a clever one as it highlights that the family clearly didn’t listen to Marta and they don’t actually care where she is from. To go another step further, it demonstrates that this family will list places like Paraguay, Ecuador, and Brazil etc. as if they are all just one and the same.
There are also key moments where subtle actions highlight that the family think Marta is beneath them. She was not allowed to attend Harlan’s funeral. There is a scene where Richard, Walt, and Joni are discussing immigrants in America. Joni is clearly the most liberal, and it does become clear which political issues were most relevant at the time that this film was released. Richard feels that America is for Americans, and he feels that if people want to come to America, then they need to do it the right way. Joni is trying to explain that it is not such a simple issue and that people just want better lives for their children, and she is fiercely against children being detained in cages. Richard feels the blame lies with the parents of those children. He makes Marta join the conversation. She is deeply uncomfortable, but Richard wants her opinion. He parades her in front of everyone, and while he is at it, he very subtly hands her his plate because he is finished with his cake. This moment reveals everything about Richard’s character. He can say what he wants about Marta being someone who has worked hard the right way, so now she too gets to enjoy America, because at the end of the day, he sees her as beneath him. It does not matter how often they say she is “like family”, he sees her as someone who is there to take his plate. Marta is a registered nurse, she is not a maid or a housekeeper, and yet Richard simply views her as someone who exists in that home in a service capacity. It is not her job to take care of his plates, but he feels he is entitled to make her take it off him anyway. I have more to say on this, but I will come back to it in a later point.
Marta was the only person who genuinely valued Harlan’s company. She is honest to a fault, to the extent that lying makes her physically vomit. This is a gag that is used to move the plot along, it is a physical comedic act that will make some people squirm as the detectives know when Marta is lying because she gets sick right in front of them. Marta also played a key role on the night of Harlan’s birthday party, but before I talk about whodunit, and the reveal of whodunit and how they did it, I want to start to dig deeper into the themes that this film explores.
Ultimately I would say that Knives Out is a film about power. Who has power? How do they have that power? Who do they have power over? What will someone do to retain that power? Underneath all of the mysterious smoke and mirrors, in the end all motives are monetary.
For all of the family’s claims about being great, about being self-made, about building things for themselves, they are, at their core, a family of entitled, money hungry vultures. They are hypocrites and they are desperate to hold on to their father’s fortune, and all of the power that the money affords them.
The clawing for money is a point that I will circle back to, but first I want to discuss the reveal of whodunit.
Spoiler Alert – Whodunit?
Ransom did it. At first audiences believe that Marta accidentally killed Harlan by mixing up his medications and giving him a deadly dose of morphine. Unable to find the emergency antidote, Marta panics and tries to get help. Harlan stops her. The pair form an airtight plan so Marta will be eliminated as a suspect. Marta’s mother is undocumented, and Marta fears she’ll be harassed and deported if she is investigated and that comes to light. Harlan knows this, and he tells Marta that she must do as he says to protect her mother.
It is later revealed that Marta did not mix up the medications at all. Ransom tampered with them and switched the bottles, but Marta still inherently knew the difference because she had administered the medication a hundred times before and she is a good nurse. The argument that Ransom had with his grandfather on the night of his birthday was about money. Harlan revealed he was cutting him out of his will, and he revealed that he was leaving absolutely everything to Marta. Ransom came up with a plan, he planned to frame Marta for the death of his grandfather, knowing that if she was found responsible for his death, even accidentally, she could not inherit anything.
This is likely why Harlan slit his throat. He wanted to take as much attention away from Marta as possible, and no one would suspect an overdose when they found someone with their throat slit.
The cause of death really was suicide, but a tangled web was still created.
Before the truth finally comes out, Ransom knew that the will reading would reveal that Marta was due to inherit everything. He also thought she would be found guilty, overturning the inheritance. Ransom was cocky and he was the only family member who was calm at the will reading, and this point allows me to dig deeper into the film’s commentary on money and power.
When the Thrombey family find out that each of them have been cut out of the will, they all go mad. They scream, they shout, they hurl accusations and obscenities at Marta, the one who they claimed to love, the one who they insisted was “like family” because when it comes down to the money, she is not family. Not real family.
When Linda learns that her father cut off Ransom, she tells her son that this could be the best thing to ever happen to him, and Richard tells his son that maybe now he’ll be forced to grow up. Such condescending words from people who are still rolling in their riches.
Five minutes later, when they learn with the rest of the family that they too have been cut out, they are furious, they are devastated, they are thrown into a state of sheer, desperate panic.
Ransom is the person who helps Marta escape the chaos, he tells her to hop into his car and he drives her away while saying “This could be the best thing to happen to all of you” with a smirk on his face.
At this point in the plot, audiences don’t know yet about what Ransom did, so at this moment, I actually found myself liking him. I thought this was really clever. From the start, Ransom is set up to be the worst Thrombey. He is called the black sheep, he fights with his grandfather, he has never had a job so he just uses his grandfather’s money. He is rude to Fran. He considers “the help” beneath him and makes them refer to him as Hugh, not Ransom. He is cocky, he is arrogant, and he has a smirk that you’d love to smack off his face. The dogs don’t even like him. Need I say more?
Chris Evans did a great job in my opinion, because in this second act of the film, he made Ransom strangely likeable. There is something to be said about an asshole who knows that they are an asshole and does not pretend otherwise. We can see that Ransom is not nice, but he never pretends to be. When he and Marta are having lunch and talking about what happened that night, Ransom gets Marta to confess to him about the medications. He tells Marta that she is going to keep the inheritance, that he will help her get away with it, and then she can just give him his share. He hates his family so he feels no loyalty to them, and this way he still gets his inheritance anyway. It is a win win.
At this moment, I was okay with this plan. As a viewer I said “Okay sure, why not. I did not expect him and Marta to team up but why not?”
Ransom turning out to be the true killer is another way that this film played with murder mystery tropes. He is set up as the worst character. At the beginning, it is likely that many people suspected him, but then dismissed the thought as too obvious. The film then leads us to believe that he is actually, maybe alright, still an asshole, but slightly better than his vulture-like family and most people would have likely been satisfied with him helping Marta get away with the medication mistake and get his cut anyways. So when it is revealed that he had malicious intentions all along, that it actually was the most obvious choice all along, this was another brilliant way that Knives Out presented very classic and obvious tropes in new ways.
Ransom is not a good person, but he is not the worst Thrombey. The Thrombey family members are all awful, and all in different ways. Linda is a hypocrite. She is not self-made at all. She did not build her fortune from the ground up like her father, she started out with a million dollar loan from him. Linda as a character is someone who continuously calls herself self-made, she is proud of this. She says that Walt does not really do anything, he just publishes their father’s books. He is not the same as her. No, no, no. She conveniently forgets to mention that million dollar loan from her father when she was just starting out, and I wonder how self-made from the ground up she would have been without that loan.
Joni’s free-spirited, liberal concerns die when her money is threatened.
Walt very menacingly threatens to draw attention to Marta’s mother if Marta does not renounce the inheritance, but Meg, I think Meg may be the worst of all.
Meg, the one who scolded officers and family members on Marta’s behalf. Meg who said Marta is her friend, who said she wanted to help Marta, who said that the family discussed it and they want to take care of Marta, she is the one who I think turned out to be the worst of all.
At first she is horrified when her family members attack Marta. She tells her mother that if grandad wanted to give the money to Marta, then she thinks they should respect that, but the tables turn when Joni reveals she is broke, and she will not be able to pay for Meg’s college.
So Meg calls Marta and she asks her what she plans to do, she tells Marta she should give the money back, because she is not family, not really. Meg tells Marta that her mother is broke, that she will have to drop out of college, but Marta tells her she won’t let that happen, she will pay for college, she will “take care” of her, and Meg learns how condescending and patronising it really is to be on the other end of that sentence. Now I would think that if someone feared they would have to drop out of college, they would be relieved if someone told them that they would not, that their fees would be paid for, but Meg is not relieved, because she is no longer the powerful one in this relationship. Meg was happy to be friends with Marta and be kind to Marta and scold others for not being kind to Marta when she was the one who held the cards. When she was the wealthy one. Now that the wind has changed, she doesn’t like it so much, and so she tells the rest of the family about Marta’s mother being undocumented. Meg gives her family the information they need to harass and bully Marta. I think Meg is the worst kind of character, she is the most sinister kind of character. Ransom is awful, but he never pretends that he isn’t.
Meg on the other hand pretends to be nice, pretends to be progressive, maybe she even truly believes that she is, but as soon as she faced hardship, she stabbed Marta in the back and called her an outsider.
I think having Meg turn out to be the worst Thrombey was a very clever way of highlighting the mindset of a certain kind of person. There are people who sit on moral high horses, claiming that as long as people do things the “right way” then they are welcome to share in the riches, but they don’t ever want that equality to actually happen, because their kindness, their morals, their compassion all depend on being the powerful one in the relationship. They can’t handle actually being on equal footing with someone, because then they have to admit that they don’t really respect the other person at all. They have to admit that they do see others as beneath them, that they do have unfair biases and prejudices. Knives Out was released in 2019, but this is a topic that is still relevant today, and Glass Onion also handles very important themes about money, power, and manipulation that I will discuss next week.
So Ransom’s plan failed, because Marta did not give Harlan the wrong medication after all.
His plan didn’t go as smoothly as he thought it would because Fran saw him tampering with Marta’s medical bag and she assumed that he was poisoning Harlan. At one point it appears that Fran is babbling on about a Hallmark movie, and it is easy to dismiss it as ridiculous chatter, but when you actually listen, you will hear that she is frantically telling Marta about a movie where the protagonist was killed slowly by being poisoned in small doses overtime, and that is what she believes Ransom was doing to Harlan. She also states that her cousin works as a receptionist in the medical examiner’s office. Another sentence that can be easily missed, but it is very important later.
Fran also wants money, so when she gets a hold of the toxicology report, she attempts to blackmail Ransom by sending him the report. “I know what you did.” The report actually reveals that Marta was innocent all along, and Ransom cannot let this be known, so he sends the report to Marta and tricks her into thinking that the report will show the overdose. He then kills Fran with the same medication overdose that he attempted to kill Harlan with.
The station mysteriously gets burned down, destroying all evidence.
Just when we think all is lost and Marta is about to renounce the inheritance, Blanc reveals the copy that Fran hid, proving Marta’s innocence and unravelling Ransom’s web.
It was an intriguing mystery and as I was watching, I had many different thoughts and guesses about how it might play out. I had different guesses about who the killer would turn out to be, because at certain points, it really could have been anyone. That is what made Knives Out so great in my opinion. The Thrombey’s are terrible people, and it really could have been anyone.
All motives were monetary. I thoroughly enjoyed Blanc telling the family off, it was amazing to watch him tell them that they are vultures and they have treated Marta like shit, and that she would be keeping the inheritance. Blanc is a fantastic character and I look forward to seeing him again in more films.
Something that I want to talk about is the attention to detail in this film. It was brilliant, and it was brilliant in Glass Onion too. Knives Out is the kind of film that every time you watch it, you will notice something new. A great example is that there is blood on Marta’s shoe. A tiny, almost non-existent spatter of blood, proving she was in the room, and audiences are not shown the blood stain until the middle of the film. Later, when all is resolved, Marta asks Blanc when he figured out that she was involved in some way. He tells her that he knew from the moment he met her, and he points out the tiny speck of blood on her shoe. When I watched the film again, I caught that in the scene where Blanc and Marta meet for the first time, he does indeed glance down at her feet.
It is tiny little details like this that make all of the difference. Fran’s line about the murder movie is another fantastic example. It seems like such a throwaway thing, but it is so important. Blanc notes how the dogs never bark at Marta and he feels that a dog is the best judge of character. The dogs bark at every other family member, especially Ransom. Linda states early on that she and her father have their own secret way of communicating, she says her father loved games. This could be viewed as simply a sweet thing to say. Linda clearly adores her father, so she feels they can speak in a way that no one else understands. Later we learn that they truly did have a secret language. She finds the letter from her father about Richard’s affair, one that appears blank, but then her lighter reveals the hidden ink. The closing shot of the film is iconic. The fallen Thrombey family members are all outside the house, arguing with the officers who are taking Ransom away. They turn, mouths agape, and stare up at Marta who is standing proudly on the balcony. They always looked down at her, but now she is literally looking down at them. The film ends with a shot of her sipping out of her coffee cup, the cup that Fran did not drop at the start of the film. The cup has a saying on it. It reads “My house.”
It is wonderful, visual storytelling. It was a really enjoyable watch. I was thoroughly invested.
I know that I jumped around to different discussion points in this review, but it naturally happened that way as I was going through everything I wanted to say. I also felt that the film did this too, we jumped back and forth in time, we jumped into different people’s perspectives, and so my own thoughts kind of naturally jumped around too as I was writing. I’m enjoying this new style of writing where I just go with the flow a bit more, but if anyone has any questions or thoughts then please do drop a comment because I’m always excited to read other people’s thoughts, opinions, and interpretations.
I would highly recommend watching Knives Out if you haven’t already. It is a funny yet very intriguing watch. If you have already seen it, and you feel inspired to watch it again, then I would encourage you to keep an eye out for things you may not have caught the first time around. I would also say watch and simply enjoy the fun that is a classic murder mystery.
Enjoy the house on the hill. Enjoy the eccentric detective. Enjoy the arrogant family. Enjoy every twist and turn.
Knives Out is an entertaining revival of the classic whodunit?
It is funny, it is quirky, it is at times a bit ridiculous, but within all of the intrigue, this is a clever film about money and power. A brilliant story told by a fantastic cast. Bravo.
Have you seen these films? Did you guess the killer? Do you prefer Knives Out or Glass Onion?
Be sure to tune in next Wednesday. I will be reviewing and discussing Glass Onion.
Festive wishes & a Christmas book review by Kate O’Brien.
Christmas is my favourite holiday. It is a time that I associate with family, friends, and lots of love. I really enjoy being festive. I enjoy buying and wrapping gifts, I love Christmas lights. I love when my home is filled with Christmas decorations. I love candy canes, I will have hot chocolate even though it is not my favourite…I do however, love a Baileys hot chocolate.
Tis the season after all.
I can’t believe that it is this time of year again. I feel like the year has flown by.
It has been a busy year, but I am very thankful that I can say that it has been a great year.
This will be my last review/discussion of 2022. I will be discussing two books.
After I publish this piece I will be taking a break for Christmas. I love Katelovesliterature.com. It is my passion project, but I work on my laptop, I’m doing my master’s which consists of lots and lots of research and essay writing, and I am always writing reviews so even though I love what I do, and I consider myself very lucky, I’m constantly typing so I think it is important to take time away from the laptop screen every once in a while. I will be writing and publishing reviews and discussions again in the New Year.
Before I jump into my final review of 2022, I want to take a moment to say thank you so much to all of my readers. You know who you are. Thank you so much to everyone who has subscribed to Katelovesliterature.com. I really appreciate it, and I hope that you all have been enjoying my reviews and discussions so far. I hope that you continue to enjoy them as we move into 2023. There is so much more to come. Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates. I hope that you all have a happy and healthy New Year. Here’s to 2023.
I want to say a special thank you to the Children’s Books Ireland team and to the Beehive Books team. I’m honoured to be a member of the Children’s Books Ireland reviewer team. I’m such an advocate when it comes to encouraging young people to read. I really believe that the books we read when we are young can open up so many doors. Everything that I do now can be credited to the fact that I was an avid bookworm when I was young, and I am so glad that the adults in my life encouraged my love of reading and ensured that I always had books. This is why I am such a fan of the Children’s Books Ireland ethos, which is that every child has the right to be a reader, and every child should have access to good quality reading materials. Every school should have a library. I have huge admiration for everyone at Children’s Books Ireland, and for all of the work that they do, and so I am delighted that I can say that I am involved in some way. #everychildareader.
I’ve also been so lucky this year as I have gotten to know some members of the Beehive Books team. I’ve had the opportunity to attend some book launches and to review some of their books. Everyone whom I have met has been so kind, so lovely, and so welcoming, which is something that I really appreciate. I have a keen interest in the publishing industry, and when you meet people who are doing what you are striving towards, and they are so encouraging, it is really lovely. Thank you to everyone at Beehive Books.
I’m adding social links below. Be sure to check them out!
The Christmas season never passes me by without reading A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a classic that is synonymous with Christmas in my opinion. I think it is such a significant read. Everyone should have to read this book at least once, and I do believe that it should be taught in English classes at this time of year. It is extremely hard for me to choose a definite favourite Dickens’ text. He is my favourite classic author. I loved studying his fiction and his journalism. Writing about his works was challenging, but it was a challenge that I really enjoyed. I would highly recommend reading A Christmas Carol first if you have never read any of his other works before, as although it is a dense text, I think it is a straightforward story to get into. The book also does a great job of introducing readers to the writing style of Charles Dickens. He is a very descriptive, evocative writer, and some of the scenes in A Christmas Carol are incredibly vivid because they are filled with such detail. I would argue that is why this book is so cinematic, and why a story like this lends itself to so many film adaptations.
I have discussed A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in much more detail in a previous book discussion. You can read it by clicking the link below.
I’m also looking forward to watching Christmas Carole starring Surrane Jones. This show will be airing on Sky on Christmas Eve, and based on the trailer, I think it looks quite good.
Surrane Jones is obviously taking on the role of Scrooge. She appears to be an uptight businesswoman who scoffs at Christmas and kindness. Following the classic Dickens plot, she will be visited by three ghosts. Some may call this plot predictable by now, and this is somewhat true because even if you have never read the original text, A Christmas Carol has been adapted so many times that by now almost everyone knows the story and how it plays out. It is a little formulaic, but that is okay. That is the nature of a story like this. It is predictable, it does follow a set structure, but nevertheless it is a heartwarming, and very important tale. I’m excited to see this new take on it, even though I already have clear ideas about how the show will play out.
I’m a fan of Surrane Jones, and it looks as though this adaptation has a fantastic cast so I am looking forward to sitting down and tuning in this Christmas Eve. I will do a mini #watchtvwithme on the spot review as I’m watching so be sure to follow along on my Instagram stories @katelovesliterature.
The Holly Pond Hill Christmas Treasury by Paul Kortepeter.
(The second of two book discussions.)
The Holly Pond Hill Christmas Treasury, illustrated by Susan Wheeler and written by Paul Kortepeter is a book that I have had since I was a little girl. I flipped through it again a few days ago, and I was reminded of just how charming this book is.
This delightful book is a collection of festive recipes, Christmas stories, poems, and songs. It is filled with charming illustrations and it is the perfect read for when one is counting down the days until Christmas. The characters of Holly Pond Hill are getting into the Christmas spirit and readers will too when they flip through the pages of this Christmas treasury. I think it is such a sweet keepsake. I’m so glad that I still have it after all these years. I think that a book like this would make a lovely present for a young reader, because it is something that they can have forever. A book like this can become a Christmas tradition because it is one that can be returned to every year. I think my favourite poem in this book is A Call for Snow! It is short and sweet, and perfect for young readers who want to practise reading independently.
I’m delighted that I came across this book. It made for a fun trip down memory lane, and I just had to share it here on Katelovesliterature.com.
I am looking forward to 2023. I have a feeling it will be a great year. There is so much more to come, and I believe that there is no way to go except onwards and upwards.
For now, thank you all for reading. I appreciate every like, and every comment. I love what I do, and it is so lovely that people engage with what I write. Until next year…
Christmas trees, fairy lights, gluhwein, and more. The Christmas markets in Leipzig were a magical sight. Germany has been on my travel wishlist for a long time, and I was so excited to spend a snowy few days in Leipzig.
I wasn’t expecting to travel again before Christmas, but my Mam surprised me with a trip to Germany. It was cold, it was snowy, it was a trip filled with festive fun.
I couldn’t wait to go, especially because Leipzig is a city that has a rich literary history, and there is nothing I love more than exploring a #literarycity.
We flew out on a Sunday and we flew back to Dublin the following Wednesday.
It is fantastic that Ryanair now has direct flights from Dublin to Leipzig.
It may have been a short trip, but it was filled with amazing food, lovely drinks, some shopping, and we explored some fantastic sights. I had the best time, and Leipzig is a city that I will most definitely be returning to, but for now, I’m delighted to be able to add Leipzig to the travel diaries.
If you enjoy reading about literary inspired trips then read on, because I’m going to outline some of the exploring we did, and I’m going to share some of the snaps I took. This city is a photographer’s dream, especially since the entire city was decorated for Christmas.
It was glittering, sparkling, and all things festive.
Leipzig is a cultural hub, and I was especially excited about the city’s musical history.
The city has often been called the city of music, and if you’re a fan of classical music then this city is one you won’t want to miss.
Please note – All images shared are photographs that I have taken myself, with my own phone. They may not be shared without my permission.
St. Thomas Church.
One of the places that I was most excited to visit was St.Thomas Church. (Thomaskirche).
This church is said to date back to the 12th century, and although it has seen some changes over time, it is hard to imagine that a structure has stood in the same spot for such a long time.
After some renovations, today the church is a beautiful, gothic building. It is a sight to behold.
St.Thomas Church is home to one of the oldest, and most renowned boys’ choirs. The St.Thomas Boys’ Choir has sung in these halls since the year 1212, and at one point in time the choir was led by the one and only Johann Sebastian Bach.
Johann Sebastian Bach has a reputation as one of the best composers of all time. He has been called a genius due to the way he composes counterpoints. A counterpoint refers to when melody lines are woven together, creating the harmony at the same time as the melody. Bach was also a particularly talented organ master, and during the church’s renovations, a new Bach organ was installed. This is the impressive organ that visitors will see when they visit the church today.
In a little corner room in the church, I found my dream come true. Instruments and sheet music, all saved and displayed in cases. It was amazing to see handwritten scores that have been saved for all these years. I love music, I studied music, and while I don’t discuss it as much as I should, I adore classical music and music theory.
I love scores. I think that there is something incredible about seeing the work that someone put on paper. Someone sat down and created song, and that is a talent that I wish I had.
Music is universal and immortal. It seems unbelievable that the music of a choir master from centuries ago is still being played, remembered, and respected today, but Bach has left behind an impressive musical legacy and reputation.
I was really hoping to see some sheet music and scores, so I was not disappointed.
Outside the church, a statue of Bach sits overlooking the grounds. I think it is lovely that he is being remembered in St.Thomas Church in Leipzig after all of his musical service there.
It is said that Bach is buried there too. The Bach museum is directly across the street so all of these must-see sights are very easy to find.
This is a stop that music lovers won’t want to miss. Lovers of architecture will really enjoy it too, as this building with its high ceilings and stained-glass windows is just stunning.
I bet that hearing a choir echoing through these walls would be absolutely amazing.
I also want to note that visitors can also view the tower, but unfortunately I could not do this as this tour does not run past November. Oh well! This gives me yet another reason to return to Leipzig, not that I needed much convincing.
I’d also like to share one of my favourite Bach quotes.
“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.” – Johann Sebastian Bach.
I think that music is something that touches the soul and pulls on one’s heartstrings in a way that not many things can. It is absolutely incredible how a piece of music can resonate with a person so much. That is why I love this quote.
St. Nicholas Church.
The second church we visited was St. Nicholas Church (Nikolaikiriche).
At this church, visitors are not permitted to take photographs.
This church is absolutely stunning, it is a sight you won’t want to miss, however it is a sight that you cannot take photographs of. You can buy a private photo pass in the gift shop for €1, which I did, however these pictures are for private use only. The church states that pictures are not permitted to be shared online or on any social media platforms. I’m sure that people share their pictures anyway, however I’m not going to do so, as I would not like any of my own photos to be shared without my permission.
This church is a gothic building with baroque elements, and I would say that this building has a delicate, almost romantic feel to it. The interior is pink and white, and a huge silver organ sits overhead, looking down at all the pews. This organ is the largest organ in all of Saxony.
Several of Bach’s pieces premiered in this church. This church is only a few minutes walk away from St.Thomas Church so it is definitely worth making a stop at both.
Mephisto is an elegant bar that you’ll find if you walk through the famous Mädler-Passage. The arcade was built between 1912-1914, and it is a sight of beauty and grandeur. At this time of year, it is also a sight of Christmas trees. Mephisto is a bar that has a wonderfully eccentric atmosphere. The stylish bar is home to Mephisto, who is a demon figure that can be found in German folktales. I just had to visit here as a lover of fairy tales and folktales.
The bar is elegant, with a devilish touch. Mirrors change, and at certain times, smoke and lightning flashes as Mephisto himself makes an appearance on the ceiling.
It is such good fun. Cocktail lovers need to make a stop here, as the menu is absolutely delicious.
The highlight of my trip was exploring the Leipzig Christmas markets. These markets are the second-oldest Christmas markets in Saxony as they date back to 1458. The markets are huge, and at every turn you’ll find fairy lights, Christmas trees, decorations, gluhwein, toffee apples, and more. There are treats at every stall. Mugs, cakes, ornaments, jewellery, I could go on and on.
Exploring the markets while Christmas music played was absolutely magical, and there was a festive joy in the air. I absolutely loved all of the hustle and bustle, even though it was very cold.
I am so happy that I had the chance to tick Germany off my travel wishlist, although I definitely want to return to Leipzig as I know there is much more to do and see. I really wanted to see the Opera House, but unfortunately the schedule was tight. Next time that will be my first stop.
I would absolutely return to the Christmas markets in Leipzig although I do think that the city would be lovely to explore in the summer, and I want to explore other places in Germany too, so be it in the cold or in the sun, I will be visiting Leipzig again.
I really enjoy travelling to places that are filled with rich literature, history, and beauty, and I really enjoy writing about these trips. If you enjoy reading my travel diaries, then be sure to read all about my past trips to Oslo, London, Pompeii, Naples, Florence, and Rome as I did lots and lots of literary things in these literary cities.
The movie is fun, kids will enjoy it, but I found the plot setup tired.
A film discussion by Kate O’Brien.
Disney’s Enchanted, the beloved film that brought the charming Giselle to our screens, came out in 2007, so it is safe to say that Disenchanted is a long-awaited sequel. If a sequel was needed at all is a different question altogether.
Before diving into what I liked, and what I didn’t like about Disenchanted, first I’d like to express why I’ve been disappointed with some of the latest Disney releases.
I have made it no secret that I have felt let down by Disney sequels and adaptations recently.
I feel as though something is always missing and the films just don’t hit the mark the way I want them too. Some may argue that I am looking back at the originals with nostalgic, rose-tinted glasses, and while I am the first to admit that the films I grew up watching are not perfect, I feel that there was a sense of overcoming adversity and actually triumphing over evil that is missing from the sequels and adaptations that we see today. Villains are just not villains anymore. They’re either completely watered down, or they’re changed completely. The “villain is not actually a villain because of their tragic backstory” trope is becoming all too common and while yes, backstories can lead to someone becoming a villain, I don’t want every story to be a villain redemption tale. Sometimes we just need a bad guy, and the stakes need to feel real. That is my main problem with some of these newer releases, the stakes just don’t feel real.
I also find that there is a need to correct and modernise the fairy tales of the past, as they’re often dubbed outdated and sexist. I won’t pretend that some of the fairy tales that are called classics are not not outdated and/or sexist in some way, shape, or form. Many of them express ideas about people and about roles in society that are outdated today, but I do think that context is important, and it is important to remember the times in which these stories were written. Thankfully attitudes have changed along with the times, but I still think context is important when reading old fairy tales in modern day, because while one can still dislike and critique the outdated ideas, it is still important to remember that they were written in a different time.
In my opinion, it is too easy to call a female protagonist weak. It is too easy to say “this character waited to be saved.” I think critiques like this too often ignore the fact that these stories were often written in a time where women did not have personal agency. They were not allowed to. They could not just do as they pleased, when they pleased. It is an uncomfortable fact, but a fact nonetheless, that there was a time when women were considered property. There was a time when women were not allowed to vote, and there was a time when a woman had to leave her job if she got married, and of course stories written in this time will reflect those attitudes, this includes fairy tales.
Many fairy tale heroines do the best they can within the situations they find themselves in, and this reality of making the best of a situation that you had no control over would have been very relatable to women existing in those times. Women having personal agency and control over their own lives, and their own minds, and their own autonomy is a battle that is still being fought today in 2022. Some people are of the opinion that they can decide what a woman can and cannot do with her own body. It is frightening to see what is happening in different parts of the world, but the point I am making is that even though times have changed, the idea of people being limited by societal rules is an idea that still exists today, and so to dismiss the outside factors that limit a heroine’s choices and simply say she is weak and has no agency at all is unfair.
This leads me to the issue with modern retellings or sequels trying to “correct” the mistakes of the past fairy tales. There is a huge attempt made to give female characters more agency, to prove they don’t need a man, to prove that “love at first sight” is a notion to be forgotten, and while I am all in favour of giving female characters agency, and portraying more realistic relationships, and of course I want stories that are empower young viewers, I still think it is important to pay attention to the details, otherwise you have stories that contradict the point they are trying to make.
Take the 2015 live-action adaptation of Cinderella as an example. This version wanted to correct the mistake of having Cinderella and the prince fall in love with each other after just one night at the ball – now there are countless versions of Cinderella, many of which involve several meetings, and this adaptation wants to highlight this idea, so the film has Ella and Kit meet in the woods. He meets her as an “honest country girl” instead of as a princess at the ball. He is smitten by her even though she is wearing her rags and has soot on her face so see! He loves her for her! He fell in love with her. Great. Another idea this adaptation had was to give Ella some “spunk.” The shock on her stepsisters’ faces when she answers them in fluent French after they teased her for being unable to speak French is comical. See! This adaptation gives audiences a Cinderella who does not blindly do as her stepfamily says. She’s got spunk. She showed them, except she didn’t, because the rest of the film has her obediently trying to please them. She does not understand why they’re so cruel to her, and despite it all she does her best to be kind.
Disclaimer – I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I love the story of Cinderella and I have always interpreted it as a story about a girl who survives being trapped in an abusive household, so even in the story’s original form, I have never thought of Cinderella as a weak character who has no agency. I’ve always considered her to be incredibly brave and strong. Strength comes in many forms, and it does not always involve being permanently sarcastic and rejecting authority.
Ella in the 2015 adaptation has one “spunky” moment as the film wanted to correct previous critiques of the story, by showing an Ella who can speak back. My issue with this is that she only does it once, and it really serves no purpose at all. The frustrating thing is that this film still faced the same critiques. Audiences still called Ella passive, especially because she chooses to forgive her stepmother at the end. I’ve always watched this scene differently, I viewed it as a gracious act. Ella is stating that she forgives her stepmother as she heads off to a happy life with Kit. She will not suffer due to her stepmother anymore, she is free of her, whereas her stepmother who is now banished, will likely think about Ella forevermore.
What is even more frustrating is that the deleted scenes show that the film originally was going to have Ella write a letter to Kit, telling him who she really is. She manages to sneak out, and get the letter to the palace, only for it to be intercepted and thrown into the fire by the Duke.
I still don’t understand why a film that was trying to give Cinderella more agency would cut out that scene. It would have been far more impactful than the French speaking scene. Imagine if audiences could have seen Ella decide to take ownership of the fact that she has feelings for Kit. Imagine how exciting it would have been to watch her boldly decide to act on her desire, because she has decided she deserves to, and write a letter to the man she loves telling him the truth. We could have then watched her sneak out of her abusive home and gallop on her horse to the palace, and the Duke intercepting the letter and throwing it into the fire would have been far more infuriating, because we would have seen all of the effort Ella went to, to try and get to Kit. We would have been rooting for her. Instead that entire section was cut and I will always be disappointed by that. Details are important, and if you want to update a story, or modernise it, you can but it has to be done in a way that makes sense.
This point very nicely brings me to Disenchanted as this sequel became Cinderella for a while, despite the film clearly trying to nod to all fairy tales, another point that I will talk about because while nods to other movies are fun, there is still a way to go about doing them.
Adam Shankman directed the 2022 film Disenchanted. The film follows a disheartened Giselle who is struggling with the stress and realities of everyday life. Giselle misses the ease of her life before New York, and so she wishes for a “fairy tale” life, but her wish goes horribly wrong.
Soon the town becomes a fairy tale, but it is not what Giselle pictured. She is a stepmother now and in traditional fairy tales, stepmothers are evil so now Giselle must fill that archetypal role whether she wants to or not. There is only so much time for the spell to be undone, for if it is not reversed then it will become permanent, and Andalasia will cease to exist for Giselle will have taken all the magic from her hometown and brought it to her new world.
I’m going to start off by discussing all of the things that I would have changed, and while it may seem like I am nit-picking, I really felt like this film had great ideas, but the execution was sloppy.
I think that details are important. Following that, I will talk about what I enjoyed, because despite not being 100% wowed by the film, I did have fun, and while I will always be honest and express my opinions, I don’t want my thoughts to only be somewhat negative, because there is no nuance in that.
I want to talk about the setup. I did not like it. Specifically, I don’t like how the film moves us to Giselle being desperate enough to make her wish. The biggest issue I have is the way the film treats Morgan.
A pet peeve of mine is when stories treat teenagers as if they are just difficult, impossible to understand beings by default. “You know how they are at this age.” “That’s teenagers for you.”
I can’t stand it. Adolescence is a time that is filled with changes and pressures. Puberty, relationships, school pressures, exams, college decisions, job decisions. It can be a difficult, and embarrassing, and stressful time, and yes, mood swings can occur, but it bothers me in stories (and in real life) when a group of grown adults can’t seem to extend any empathy or ask what is going on, instead they roll their eyes and proclaim “Teenagers! They’re miserable!”
Even worse, when adults do ask what is going on, but dismiss the answer as “not that serious.”
The beginning of Disenchanted places Morgan in the stereotypical, miserable teenager role, and I was very disappointed by this. I understand why the writers did this, as it does tie into the movie’s ending, a point that I will get to later.
Warning – there will be spoilers.
Having some tension between Giselle and Morgan was needed for what the writers wanted to do, however I wish they had gone about it in a different way. I feel like the “awful teenager” narrative is overdone and at this point, I find it lazy.
The plot is centred around Giselle and her feelings. She is dismayed because life is harder than she imagined it would be. As in fairy tales, finding your happily ever after is the hardest part.
Now Giselle is in the real world, she is married to Robert, they have a new baby. She is exhausted, and her relationship with Morgan is becoming more difficult to navigate. So Giselle is certain that moving house will solve all her woes. There is nothing better than a fresh start after all.
Morgan, naturally, is upset about the move. She is leaving her home, her school, and all of her friends, but none of her feelings are valid, of course not. She is a teenager, and therefore she is moody for no reason. It has nothing to do with her entire life being upended. Not at all.
Morgan has grown up. She is no longer a little girl, and while she still loves Giselle, she finds her constant reference to fairy tale life a bit exhausting, and honestly, I don’t blame her.
A running gag in this movie is the fact that Giselle has no idea what sarcasm is or how it works. This is another reason why she finds Morgan’s teenage years so difficult. She looks back to the days when Morgan was little, when she would ask for princess stories every night. She says it was so easy then. Everyone tries to reassure her that it is just a phase, this is just how teenagers are, and I became quite frustrated by this line. This is not “just how teenagers are.” The fact is that Morgan is not six anymore. She is a young woman, in highschool, so of course her interests have changed. It is unfair for anyone to expect Morgan to be exactly the same as she was when she was a little girl.
I think the scene that I disliked the most was the scene where Giselle sets up a cupcake stall to encourage Morgan’s new school peers to vote for Morgan to be princess of the festival. Giselle has good intentions, but I was still bothered that Giselle could not see why Morgan would not want this. Morgan does not want to be a princess. She just wants to fit in at her new school and make some friends after having to leave her old school and her old friends behind, something that the always chirpy, always singing Giselle does not make any easier. Morgan is laughed at by everyone, but again her feelings are dismissed because “Giselle was just trying to help.”
I think the problem is that the character of Giselle was beloved in the first movie. She is iconic. She was naive, charming, and romantic. She was a real-life princess. This worked so well because the plot was that she got literally shoved from her fairy tale life into New York. She had no idea how anything worked. She was fascinated by everything, and her openness and genuine nature allowed Robert to break out of his cynical box. Naturally Disney wanted to bring that Giselle back to our screens, the Giselle that everyone knows and loves. The problem is that this Giselle does not work anymore. It was as though Giselle did not change one bit despite all the time that has passed. She has lived in New York for years, she has built a life there, but we are still expected to believe that she understands nothing about how the “real” world works.
There is a difference between a teenager being unreasonably snarky, and Morgan being frustrated because her mother has uprooted her entire life, and opened her up to endless ridicule from her new classmates. Morgan is the new kid in town, and the new kid in school, which is hard enough as it is, but Giselle makes this even harder, and then she gets upset when Morgan does not react the way she did when she was little. It was frustrating to watch.
This tension with Morgan, alongside the troubles they face in their new home, is what prompts Giselle to make a wish for a fairy tale life. Her wish gets complicated however, when she turns into an evil stepmother. This was clever, if a little on the nose. In archetypal fairy tales, stepmothers are traditionally cruel. Giselle is Morgan’s stepmother. So when she wishes for a fairy tale life, Giselle unknowingly gives herself the role of the villain, because as time passes, she takes on more stereotypical stepmother traits.
The plot becomes Cinderella for a while. Giselle destroys Morgan’s dress, she locks her in the attic, she forbids her from attending the festival, and she even quotes the famous stepmother speech from the 1950s animation. I enjoyed the nod, but I felt that the plot was messy because it was not clear who the protagonist was. It should have been Morgan, but it wasn’t. Giselle was sort of the protagonist, but the movie wanted a twist so they made her the antagonist, as well as having another villain. So we had two villains, battling to see who could be the most wicked.
I would have preferred it if Morgan was the true protagonist. I would have preferred more screen time with her, as she tries to figure out what is happening, what is going on, why is everyone around her, including her becoming more and more of a storybook caricature?
Funnily enough, despite modern movies trying to stray away from the “damsel” critiques, Giselle’s wish takes away all of Morgan’s bad feelings about the move, and she becomes a permanently smiling, singing, ideal storybook fair maiden who is trying her very best to gain her stepmother’s approval. I’m not critiquing Morgan, I enjoyed her scenes, and I enjoyed her singing, but I just think it is ironic that Disney placed her in the role that so many adaptations constantly try to “correct.”
Before anyone says I’ve taken the movie too seriously, I am aware it is a Disney movie. I am aware that it is for children, however I still think the plot was messy, and that kids deserve plots that are well developed. While I was irritated, I did not completely hate this movie. I just wish it was better.
Let’s talk about the positives.
I enjoyed the songs. It was very bright. The costumes were beautiful, everyone looked as though they jumped out of a storybook, as they should. I absolutely loved seeing the Irish locations.
I’m biassed of course, but I am Irish, and I think that Ireland is beautiful, so it was great to see a movie that takes advantage of Ireland’s natural beauty. The cast were fantastic. I love Amy Adams. It is clear that she loves this role, and despite my frustrations with this sequel, I do love her in this role. No one else could play Giselle, however this time around, Giselle’s character didn’t impress me the way she did the first time.
I do want to talk about the final scene between Giselle and Morgan, because despite my issues with the movie’s setup, I really loved this moment and I feel like it is a really heartwarming, and important scene. When it all comes down to it, Morgan is the only one who can undo Giselle’s wish. Morgan fears she won’t be able to, for the magic states that only a “true daughter” can use the wand. Morgan fears all hope is lost. She is not from Andalasia. She is not from a magical world. She can’t use the want. Giselle tells her that yes she can use the wand, she can do it, because she is a true daughter. “You’re my daughter Morgan.”
This is a beautiful moment, and it is an important one. The movie talks about how bonds don’t have to be biological to be strong. In a time where many children have stepparents, I felt that this theme was a very poignant and significant one. Morgan did feel insecure about not being a “true daughter of Andalasia.” She did feel insecure when her father and Giselle had a child of their own. I feel like this would be a very realistic thing, especially when the age gap is so big. Babies get doted on naturally, but this can add to insecurities when the relationship changes in your teenage years. Giselle raised Morgan, she has always been there for Morgan. She loves Morgan. Morgan is her daughter. Their bond is true, and loving, and valid, and Morgan needed to know that. She needed to hear that. All parents need to reassess their relationships with their children as they get older, because as a child grows, they change, and this does not automatically have to be a bad thing. I loved this scene, and I understand why the writers chose to lead up to this moment the way they did, I understand why they created friction, I just wish it was done a bit differently. Very differently.
My ideal version of this sequel would have removed the tired “teenagers, ugh” trope.
I would have had Giselle feel homesick, because having a new baby is tiring, it is hard.
The move could have still taken place, and Morgan still could have felt sad about leaving her friends and school, because those are valid feelings. Robert having to adjust to commuting could have stayed, because that is a realistic stress factor. I would have removed Giselle trying to get everyone to vote for Morgan as festival princess, but left in the other kids scoffing at Morgan and not being overly kind to the new kid, because again, that is realistic.
All of these combined would have still led to Giselle yearning for the ease of Andalasia, because things just are not working out how she expected them to. As for the tension between Giselle and Morgan, I would have removed the constant badmouthing of Morgan and instead, I’d have had her naturally not being as interested in Giselle’s fairytale stories. I would have had Robert reassuring Giselle that Morgan loves her, but it is natural for kids to want to do their own thing more as they get older. Giselle could have still struggled with this change, as that is realistic. It is normal for parents to have to adapt when their kids are getting older. The relationship changes because it has to, so that distance between Giselle and Morgan would still have been there, but it would have been done in a way that was not tired, overdone, and frankly unfair.
After Giselle’s wish goes wrong, I would have had Morgan be the clear protagonist.
I would have liked to see her trying to figure out what was going on, and how to fix it, and this way Giselle could have been the clear antagonist as the curse would have made her more and more wicked as time passed. I feel this would have been really fun, and the clarity of who is the protagonist, and what they are trying to overcome would have made the stakes and triumphs much more satisfying.
Overall I think that Disenchanted was fun. It is clear that the cast had a ball. The songs were great, it was bright and lively. The movie was filled with references to other fairy tales so Disney lovers will appreciate all of these moments. I’m sure kids will enjoy this movie, I just wish it had been written slightly differently. I would have loved to see a tad more nuance, and some fresh stories instead of repeating tired tropes that I’m really getting sick of seeing.
Know who your protagonist is. Know who your antagonist is. Be clearer about everyone’s motivations, and allow characters to mature.
Sometimes movies should be left alone, as a sequel is not really needed, but that is a discussion for another time.
An eerie, slow-burning film about violence, obsession, and the idea of becoming a spectacle.
A review by Kate O’Brien.
NOPE was released in July of 2022 and the film was directed by Jordan Peele.
I watched NOPE for the first time a few days ago and while it is a great choice of film to talk about during #spookyseason, this film is one that will stay with me for a long time.
If you’re a new reader here at Katelovesliterature.com, you may not know that despite pushing through and watching anyways, I am not the biggest fan of horror.
I used to say that as a blanket statement – “I don’t like horror.”
I’ve realised that this isn’t true. Horror intrigues me. I can like horror and often do, the problem is that I am jumpy and squeamish. I hate blood, the sight of it makes me nauseous and so the idea of many horror films make me squirm, however if I am interested enough in a concept, I have found ways to get over my fears and watch anyways. I will begrudgingly admit that despite covering my eyes during certain scenes, I usually enjoy the films I watch overall and I am often filled with many thoughts.
NOPE is a film that I really enjoyed. I was assured that there are only two bloody/gory scenes that I would be fairly warned about and the rest of the film is a slow, suspense-filled, slow-burn.
This is true. While there are some tense scenes, it is not a gore fest and there is only one jump-scare that was quite mild, and that is coming from me. So, if you’re like me and you hate blood but you’re curious about this film, I would recommend it. The first scene that I had to look away from happens very early on, when a character gets injured. The second scene that I had to look away from happens much later on. This movie is separated into acts with title chapters so – spoiler alert-
When the Gordy section begins, I would recommend covering one’s eyes as this section opens with a long-panning, quite graphic, gory scene, but once this scene has passed, that is it. There is no more gore or shocking injuries for the rest of the movie. The third-act actually moves at a very quick pace and it even felt like an action movie at times, but I am getting ahead of myself.
All of my thoughts and opinions, and interpretations are my own, so as with any film, I may have a completely different take on it compared to someone else’s, but I would suggest that this is a film that is talking about violence, and an audience’s obsession with violence and how we can make a spectacle out of things if we don’t respect them enough.
Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer star as OJ and Emerald, siblings who come together after their father dies. Their father, Otis Haywood Sr., taught his children the family business of training horses for films and television. Otis is on a horse when a mysterious coin falls from the sky, hits him in the eye and kills him. OJ and Emerald are grieving together and trying to keep the business going after their father’s death, but their family ranch has become home to an unknown presence. OJ and Emerald experience strange power outages and they also see something – they don’t know what, in the sky. The plot follows OJ and Emerald as they set out to capture video evidence of this mysterious object in the sky that appears to be eating things, including people.
I think that this film has done something really interesting, because in my opinion, this film has used alien film tropes to its advantage in order to explore various themes. As I was watching the film and trying to figure out what I think it means, there came a moment when I said, “this is an alien film.”
In some ways, it is an alien film and I’ve even heard that some people interpreted NOPE to stand for “Not of planet earth”, but according to Peele, this is coincidental. It is an alien film in the sense that the main protagonists are attempting to capture footage of of extraterrestrial beings on camera, to prove that the strange happenings that are occurring at their home are actually real, and in the process of doing this, they find themselves in danger, but I think that this film is more than an alien film. I think this is a film that uses alien plot point tropes to tell a bigger story.
I want to talk about the setting. This film is set out in the middle of nowhere on the Haywood ranch. There are some absolutely stunning visuals in this movie. There are big, sprawling, panning shots that show beautiful star filled skies, sprawling mountains, and a horizon that stretches and stretches. The Haywood’s house is a perfect backdrop for a horror film. It is a big house on a hill on a ranch out in the middle of nowhere. It is beautiful and eerie all at once. It is hard to get to and more importantly, hard to get away from. I would also argue that there are some gothic elements to this film. A very common trope in gothic literature is the idea that home becomes a place of danger rather than a place where one finds safety. In NOPE, the Haywood’s childhood home becomes the sight of odd occurrences and instead of feeling safe there, the Haywood’s are now at the mercy of whatever is in the sky. That is, they are at its mercy until they figure out what it is, and how to tame it.
In films, lighting and sound can be used in really impactful, evocative ways and in this film, the light is very important. Whenever something unsettling is about to happen, the power goes out. Lights go out, any music that is playing trails off in a rather jarring way that it is unsettling to the ear. When the thing in the sky is gone, the lights come back on and this is a signal to the audiences that our protagonists are safe – for now.
I want to talk about what I think the film’s themes are. I would argue that the film’s themes are the ideas of watching and looking, the idea of how people can become obsessed with violence and violent acts, the idea of how obsession can lead to danger, and I would also argue that the film touches on ideas about control, the want to control other beings, or the want to control the narrative etc.
This is also a film about family. OJ and Emerald are brother and sister and this is a film about them coming together and working together to defeat something. The two characters go on a journey together. If you strip away every other element, this is a film that is about grieving siblings who come together to face adversity, and that is beautiful. It’s touching. Their story really pulled on my heartstrings throughout the entire film.
Filming is a topic that comes up a lot during this film. After his father’s death, OJ takes a horse to a shoot for a commercial, but the shoot doesn’t go well because the people on set do not listen to his safety demonstration and they do not treat the horse with respect. This leads to the horse getting spooked, and even though no one was hurt, OJ loses the job. Times have been tough on the ranch and some horses have had to be sold in order to make ends meet. This leads us to meeting Ricky “Jupe” Park. Jupe was a child actor who worked on the sitcom “Gordy’s Home.” Now the adult Jupe runs a western theme park and he has been buying Haywood horses. He even offers to buy the ranch. Jupe is very proud of the work he did as a child on “Gordy’s Home”, but the thing he talks about the most, the story that he exploits, is the tragedy that happened on set. Jupe recalls the story and tells Emerald and OJ how one day, one of the chimps playing Gordy attacked several co-stars on set, and that tragic event is the reason why chimps are not used on sets anymore. Jupe witnessed this entire tragic event play out and it has had a profound impact on him as an adult, but this is a point that I will expand on later.
OJ contemplates Jupe’s offer, and Emerald encourages him to accept it, and while mulling this over, more strange events start occurring on the ranch, prompting OJ and Emerald to want to capture it on film. An important thing to note is that they want to be the ones to capture the evidence on film, because they don’t want anyone else to find out about the events on the ranch and film it, pushing the Haywood’s out. It is their family home, and they want to be the ones to tell this story, and I think this is an important point to keep in mind when thinking about who tells stories and the way that stories are told.
When OJ and Emerald go to buy camera equipment, they meet Angel at the store. Angel is a tech enthusiast and he sets up the equipment at the house. He becomes a supportive friend to OJ and Emerald and as the film plays out, he helps them capture footage of what is eventually called a UFO.
I don’t think this film has a villain, although out of everyone’s actions, Jupe’ are arguably the worst. It becomes obvious that the tragedy on the “Gordy’s Home” set had a profound impact on Jupe because now as an adult, he is obsessed with violent acts. He is obsessed with the idea of a spectacle.
The thing in the sky, the UFO, is actually animal like. It is a predator. OJ is the one who figures this out. This makes sense, seeing as it is his family that has knowledge of animals, how to train them, and also, they respect them. The film takes time to teach audiences about what not to do around horses. No loud noises, no sudden movements, don’t look them in the eye, don’t get too close. Doing these things can spook a horse. OJ figures out that the thing in the sky is predator like because it is being territorial over the ranch, and one way to stay safe is to not look up. Don’t look it in the eye.
The predator in the sky gets hungry, it scours for prey, it eats horses and sometimes it eats people, and then spits out things it can’t eat, hence the coins falling from the sky. We as the audience, learn that Jupe has become so obsessed with the spectacle that this thing creates that he has been buying the horses from OJ to use as bait to lure the thing in the sky out.
The last character I need to mention before I talk anymore about the themes is Antlers Holst. Holst is a cinematographer who Emerald calls because she wants his help getting footage of the thing in the sky, the thing that she has named Jean Jacket, referring to a horse she didn’t get to tame when she was a child. I am mentioning Holst because he has a line that I feel really captures the entire message of the film.
Holst is all about getting “the shot.” Holst warns Emerald that this thing that she is chasing, the dream that will take her to the top of the mountain, it is endless. It is a dream that “you never wake up from.”
This line is really important. This idea of chasing this dream, this idea of being obsessed with “getting the shot, the shot” is ultimately Holst’s undoing.
Holst has vast experience when it comes to capturing the extraordinary on film, and he uses manual cameras so the power outages do not mess with his footage, but he falls prey to the very thing he warned Emerald about. He got the shot. He captured Jean Jacket on film, but he wanted more, he wanted a better shot, so because he was so obsessed with getting the shot, he ignored all warnings and put himself in harm’s way. He ended up getting devoured by Jean Jacket, he died for the shot.
This is extremely significant, because I feel like this moment sums up so much of the rest of the film. Jupe is obsessed with the idea of a spectacle, so much so that he uses horses as bait, endangering them and other people too, all because he is so fixated on seeing the chaos come to life. This obsession is a direct result of what happened to him when he was on set as a child. The tragic day where so many people get extremely hurt has become a spectacle. People don’t treat it with the respect that it deserves, instead people have become obsessed with watching the clip online. People are obsessed with how awful it was, so much so that is has become almost entertaining in a very twisted way. Jupe thrives off of telling the story, even though he is still haunted by it. He loves talking to people about that day because he loves how invested and engaged people are in the story. This is why he wants to lure Jean Jacket out of the sky. He wants a spectacle, and it never seems to occur to him that by doing this, he is endangering and disrespecting other people, and the horses.
He’s not thinking about them, they’re simply part of his spectacle.
I think it would impossible to watch this film and not at all think about what it implies about animals in performance capacities. The Haywood’s care for their horses and respect them. They want their horses to be safe and healthy. Not everyone on set feels that way, Jupe doesn’t care about the horses when he is using them as bait, OJ and Emerald and Angel are the only ones who take Jean Jacket seriously. They respect the fact that the thing in the sky is a predator. It is a threat. It is not something that Jupe should be making a circus out of. Obviously times have changed compared to years and years ago, and where once upon a time large animals were used in theme parks and in circuses in unnatural habitats, this is a notion that is hugely controversial now as more and more people are against animals being held in captivity this way.
I think this idea is impossible to ignore as it perfectly ties into the idea of making a spectacle out of something that should not be one.
As we approach the end of the film, a journalist gets wind of the strange things that are happening at the Haywood ranch, so he arrives with a video camera. OJ, Emerald and Angel already have a plan set in motion about how to tame Jean Jacket so that no-one else gets hurt. This plan gets put at risk when the journalist shows up. Emerald tries to shoo him away, but he is invested and determined to get his shots. Just like Holst, he dies for the sake of filming. OJ did his best to save him but it was too late, and he too gets devoured by Jean Jacket. In his final moments, he is screaming about making sure this is filmed, make sure his death is caught on camera, so even in his final moments, he’s not thinking about his life, he’s thinking about getting his shot.
While I can’t say for certain that this was Peele’s intention, this film really made me think about social media culture and how far we will go to get the shot. How far will we go for appearances? Do we put ourselves in harm’s way by doing too many performative things?
Obviously this is quite extreme. I’ve always held the opinion that social media can be nothing more than lighthearted and fun as long as you behave responsibly and remember that so many things are created and altered so it cannot be viewed as the be all and end all, but as in all horror movies, this idea is taken to the extreme and forces audiences to question things.
I’ve talked about it before, but there is this idea that the morbid is curious. Violence can be very intriguing. I’ve written about violence onscreen in an academic setting, and the idea that really resonated with me is the idea that when something seems so unimaginable, it is fascinating.
It is the idea of wanting to look away but being unable to do so. Audiences enjoy experiencing violence from afar, in a safe way. Watching violence is intriguing because it poses no threat to us when we are safe on our sofas, but there does come a point where you have to think about what you’re doing. Are you viewing the victims of the violent acts as people? Are you feeling sympathy for them? Are you empathising with them? Or have they become part of a spectacle? Have their feelings been forgotten entirely? It is a very interesting, and complex topic because sadly violence does occur, and to pretend it doesn’t happen ever in the media that we take in would be insincere.
How violence is contextualised is very important, and I would suggest that NOPE is a film that prompts audiences to think about the ways in which we view violence and violent acts onscreen.
Despite this movie being unsettling, I would say that it ended on a hopeful note.
I am going to spoil the ending because I want to talk about how I felt that the film had a full-circle structure.
I am very happy that OJ and Emerald both survive. I was worried that we would lose one of them, but I was pleasantly surprised when this wasn’t the case. The film ends with Emerald capturing the shot and Jean Jacket gets destroyed. OJ and Emerald work together the entire time, but in the end, Emerald is the one to “tame” Jean Jacket and I found this to be very poignant. Emerald didn’t get to train or tame the horse when she was a child, because the horse got booked for a job and because OJ was older, he got to go to work with their father, but OJ always looked back at Emerald. Now, we come full-circle. Emerald is an adult, and even though she and OJ are always there for each other, always looking back at each other, she is the one who gets to tame this Jean Jacket, and the film ends with her and OJ smiling at each other, thrilled that they are both okay as photographers and journalists start arriving with their cameras, all wanting their shot.
The cycle starts again. Something happens and we always want to make a spectacle out of it. We want the details, we want the story, we want to know because we’re morbidly fascinated by the events that have occurred, because they seem so unimaginable. I feel this will always be the way it works, because we do need news, we do need to be informed, but it is important to remember to respect the people who actually experienced the event and view them as actual people, rather than figures for our own entertainment.
NOPE is a brilliantly paced, slow-burning film that is deeply unsettling and extremely thought provoking. It is bright yet there is this constant, underlying tension that something isn’t right, something is wrong, and that sense of danger and urgency continues to build and become more intense, and then the final act moves at a very swift pace. It is perfect. It mirrors the sense of urgency that we feel as viewers. The characters must act now. The plan has to work.
It is unsettling without being excessively gory. The score is stunning, and some of the visuals are almost like a painting. Overall I would say that NOPE is an extremely evocative film, and I would highly recommend it.