Glass Onion – Packed with Great Humor and Murder (4*)

Glass Onion is a terrific sequel to Knives Out. Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) still solves the mystery, but a fun-loving cast helmed by Janelle Monae keeps you thinking. (4*)
Glass Onion
Glass Onion

Glass Onion – Snapshot

Glass Onion is a sequel to Rian Johnson’s terrific original movie Knives Out. Although with different characters – except for Benoit Blanc –  and a setting on a private island in Greece, the movie still thrills us with humor, intriguing people, a jab at today’s technocratic elite, and same level of mental gymnastics to figure out what’s happening.  Great entertainment! (4*) 

Where to Watch:

Stream: Netflix

Rent: (Nowhere I could find!)

Glass Onion – The Oscar Buzz 

Oscar Nominations:

Adapted Screenplay (Rian Johnson)

Glass Onion received a single major nomination for Adapted Screenplay for Writer/Director Rian Johnson.  I believe the reason it is considered “Adapted” instead of “Original” is because it is, sort of, a takeoff from Johnson’s original Benoit Blanc mystery, Knives Out (19), which received a nomination for Original Screenplay.  Aside from the genre and the main character, however, Glass Onion is not really any kind of adaptation of the first film.  This is one of those strange Oscar decisions that happen every now and then.  Other Oscar nominees on the crew included Production Designer Rick Heinrichs previously nominated for Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s Chest (06), A Series of Unfortunate Events (04), and Sleepy Hollow (99) OSCAR WINNER.  Oscar Acting nominees in this movie include Edward Norton (American History X (98), Primal Fear (96), Birdman or…(14)), Kate Hudson (Almost Famous (00), and Leslie Odom Jr. (One Night in Miami (20)).

Glass Onion – The Movie’s Family Tree

The Following Movies Share Talent with This One (and if you like these films, you might like this one):

Knives Out (19) : Director/Writer(Johnson); Composer (Johnson)/ Cinematographer (Yedlin); Editor (Ducsay); Costume Design (Eagan); Acting (Craig)

Looper (12) : Director/Writer(Johnson); Composer (Johnson)/ Cinematographer (Yedlin); Editor (Ducsay)

Star Wars: Episode VIII Return of the Jedi (17) : Director/Writer(Johnson); Editor (Ducsay); Production Design (Heinrichs)

Casino Royale (06) / Skyfall (12) / Spectre (15) / No Time to Die (21): Acting (Craig)

Harriet (19) : Acting (Monae/Odom)

Glass Onion is, as Netflix insists we remember, “A Knives Out Mystery”.  It involves the same Louisiana-accented main character, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), is a murder mystery, is a product of the same writer/director, Rian Johnson, and involves many of the same crew members.  It is, however, an entirely different story and, although part of an apparent trilogy, it stands on its  own.  Nathan Johnson, composer of the musical score for several of Rian Johnsons’ films, is, indeed, his cousin.  Fans of Daniel Craig’s James Bond movies will enjoy seeing him in an entirely different role (and one maybe not quite as sexy in a swimsuit!). And Janelle Monae and Leslie Odom Jr. both starred in the historical biopic Harriet.  (I noted in my review of Harriet that Monae frequently overpowered Cynthia Erivo (Harriet Tubman) who received an Oscar nomination for her performance.  In Glass Onion Monae, again, turns in a stellar performance!)

Glass Onion – What Others Think

Glass Onion ranks eighth overall in this year’s 25 general interest films tied with All Quiet on the Western Front and is generally liked by both audiences and critics.  This may not be the best of this year’s films, but it is certainly in the top third.

Critics found much to praise about Glass Onion.  Perhaps the most important common thread among all of the reviews I found was just how much fun the cast was obviously having and how that enthusiasm transferred to the audience.  Brian Tallerico (Roger Ebert) said “one can feel the joy everyone on set had as they stepped into Johnson’s puzzle of a screenplay and played their piece.” Christy Lemire (also Roger Ebert) remarked that “Once again, it’s truly a joy to watch Craig get goofy.” James Berardinelli (ReelViews ) noted that the cast “is comprised of recognizable names in top form.  It’s a credit to the screenplay that no one upstages the others…”. A.O. Scott (New York Times) opined “The core ensemble does what amounts to superior sketch-comedy work rising enough above caricature to keep you interested.”

Everyone also loved Rian Johnson’s script: “Some of the pleasure comes from being wrong about what will happen next” (A.O. Scott); “A well-paced screwball mystery…” (Ben Walter(Sight&Sound));  and “Glass Onion is funnier than almost any other 2022 film…” James Berardinelli (ReelViews).  It is no wonder that Johnson scored another nomination for his wonderful writing.

Glass Onion – Special Mention

The Glass Onion – The knives in Knives Out had an important role in that film and, if you were observant enough, gave you a distinct clue as to who the killer was.  The Glass Onion plays a similar role in this movie.  Sure, Miles Bron’s mansion is called by that name and there is a sculpture of one sitting on top of his house.  But, as in Johnson’s previous movie, it also plays a much bigger role.  And so I wanted to understand more what this thing, a Glass Onion, really represented.

The first thing I found is that the term refers to a type of squat bottle used to transport wine back in the latter part of the 1600s.  Made of glass, it was blown in the shape of an onion which, it turns out, is a little more robust on ocean voyages than standard wine bottles.  One of the characters can be seen at one point carrying a bottle, tequila I think, that looks like a “glass onion” bottle.

But there is another reference that I think is much more important.  Johnson integrates into the soundtrack two songs from the 1968 Beatles Album, “The White Album”.  One is Blackbird, the other is the song Glass Onion.  (I encourage you to google the lyrics to the song because it is important to the movie.  Lennon wrote the song, which includes references to several other Beatles songs because, frankly, he was upset about everyone’s search for hidden meanings in their songs.  So Lennon’s Glass Onion was an attempt to confuse all those who were looking for more meaning than was really there.  Instead, he insisted that all one had to do was “look through a glass onion.”

An onion implies layers and layers of meaning and when you peel one back, there is another one to work through.  But, if the onion is glass, then you can see the center clearly, without peeling a thing.  So, maybe, as Blanc explains how he managed to crack the case, “It hides not behind complexity, but behind mind-numbing, obvious clarity.  Truth is, it doesn’t hide at all.  I was staring right at it.”  (Watch Glass Onion and you’ll see what all that means.)

Glass Onion – Michael’s Moments

Glass Onion is the second in an apparent trilogy of mystery movies centering on the Daniel Craig character, Benoit Blanc.  I loved the first one, Knives Out, gave it 4* and called in “just perfect entertainment”.  What I loved about the film and couldn’t quite understand out how Johnson had managed to do it, was that the murder is explained very early in the film and so the bulk of the movie is figuring out how we got there, through a labyrinth of plot and character twists and turns.  The setting and the characters seemed to come straight out of a Sherlock Holmes story or maybe even the Clue game.

Glass Onion preserves the Byzantine structure and, in some ways, amplifies it.  Johnson has structured the film almost exactly like a musical Fugue (and, indeed, quotes Bach’s Fugue in G Minor, at least twice).  Intriguingly, the second “round” in Johnson’s fugue begins at exactly the halfway point (1:10) in the movie.

As you peer into the Glass Onion, be aware of all the distractions that Johnson adds to complicate your journey.  In addition to one where Yo Yo Ma, the acclaimed cellist, explains what a Fugue is, there are also cameo appearances from Jackie Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Hugh Grant, Natasha Lyonne, Serena Williams, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the last screen appearances from the legends Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim.  Some of what they tell you is significant; some is not; and it is your job to figure it out.  There is also a great character called Derol who will really throw your thinking for a loop.

Much has already been said about the cast of characters – those charged with figuring out the mystery.  What is terrific about the movie is how balanced they are, none of them really monopolizing the screen.  Duke (Dave Bautista) is a macho YouTuber, accompanied by his young lover Whiskey (Madelyn Cline).  Claire (Kathryn Hahn)  is a governor of some unknown state, and Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.) is a high tech guru. Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) is a “social influencer” who is saved from her many on-line gaffes by her able assistant, Peg (Jessica Henwick).  These six people have been invited to the private island of billionaire high-tech businessman Miles Bron (Edward Norton) to spend the weekend and play a game to solve his own, faked, murder.  As has been noted by others, the ensemble acting of this cast is terrific and it is so obvious that these people, like the cast in Knives Out, had a great time.

But this is a very different group of characters than in the first film.  In Knives Out, the suspects were all family members (except for one) and the film really mimicked a clue game.  In Glass Onion, these characters aren’t members of an old rich family.  Instead they are part of contemporary America’s nouveau riche, built on the whims and fantasies of high-tech fads and social media algorithms.  And it will become, almost painfully, clear how different are their bonds.  

The two additional people there to expose the onion layers are, of course, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) the uninvited real-life detective, and Andi  Brand (Janelle Monae) who has a rather unique relationship to everyone else in the movie.  Monae is to this film what Ana de Armas was to Knives Out – much more than just arm candy.  These women provide the basic backbone to not just the mystery, but also its unraveling.  Monae is the driving force in this film so hang on to your hat.  You are in for a ride.

Enjoy this movie, every much as you did Knives Out and recognize the value of a great script.  Simply terrific fun. (4*)

Glass Onion
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