PG-13, and I would guess mostly for murder. Yeah, it's a murder mystery, which means there's going to be violence both on-screen and off-screen. There's also language and some sexuality, but no nudity. There's also some just uncomfortable stuff with guns and outfits. Listen, it's a PG-13 movie. It's got the stuff of PG-13 movies. Plus death. If death is your trigger...
DIRECTOR: Rian Johnson
What is my darned relationship with Rian Johnson? (Dear Rian Johnson, if by some fluke of the Matrix, you happen to be reading this, we do not know each other. The relationship I'm talking about is between audience and filmmaker. Feel at ease. Maybe enjoy a lovely hot chocolate or something. You deserve it.) Rian Johnson exists in a part of my brain that is in raging conflict. He's the guy who made Brick, and Looper, and Knives Out. He made this masterpiece. He's incredibly smart. But part of my brain also makes him a Star Wars guy simply because of The Last Jedi. That Star Wars connection is so damning and completely unfair because I've learned to really like The Last Jedi. I probably will never love it, but I love that it tried to do something different (even if it is just The Empire Strikes Back kind of).
It's weird, because I'll typecast an actor less than I am treating Rian Johnson right now. Honestly, I see Daisy Ridley in a movie, I don't see Rey. There are only a few actors that really turn my head in terms of typecasting. But Rian Johnson? He's the Last Jedi guy. I don't even associate him with Brick, which I will rave about all day long. But that's where I come into Glass Onion. I was floored by this movie. Unequivically. It knocked my socks off and I immediately started recommending it to others. Sure, once I slept on it, there were a couple of small things that irked me. But the movie was so good and it was such a fun mystery that these (seeming --because I'm ready to accept an answer given a little persuading) plotholes. But did some of that reaction come from the fact that I'm always surprised that the Star Wars guy made something so good? So many people have worked for Lucasfilm and so many people have gone onto doing other things that have been brilliant. Why am I lumping Rian Johnson into Star Wars so hard? Is it because there might be a trilogy spearhead by him that is going to make a lot of fans mad? I don't know. Onto Glass Onion.
I was going to say that I didn't know what made Glass Onion work so well. I do. It's the fact that the movie is both clever --and more importantly --fun. Golly, this movie is just too much fun. I'm taking a real leap here, but I think that the words "Murder Mystery" and "Thriller" have been irresponsibly used interchangably. Thrillers have to be really smart to transcend the genre / subgenre. They tend to be a dime a dozen. It's only stuff like The Usual Suspects that manage to jump into a new tier because of their cleverness. But when something is referred to as "A Murder Mystery", it somehow should seem more bleak, but it never is. It has the word "murder" in the idea. It is fundamentally about death. Yet, these are stories where death paradoxically both carries weight and is somehow silly. I love that Dave Bautista is the murder victim. There's this tank of human being, crass and armed to the teeth, and he's the first one to drop. At least in terms of runtime. It's a blog about a murder mystery, I'm going to have to drop spoilers. But his death sets off this chain of events that leads to an island borderline catching fire. Paradox. Silly and serious.
Remind me to talk about Ben Shapiro's idiocy later. I might not remember and this is a solitary writing experience, but still...remind me. Right. Death and the murder mystery. Somehow, the murder mystery lives in the world of paradox. Especially something like Glass Onion, the murder matters and almost fundmentally is about something else. I mean, I'm being obvious now, but I want to deep dive into this. All murder mysteries are about motive. And as much as this is an investigation into who killed Duke and Andi, it's about taking down sleazeball Miles not for their deaths, but for just being a blight on humanity. Yeah, his worst crime is the murder. But that is almost an element of character than it is a plot device. Maybe that's why Glass Onion and true "Murder Mysteries" find their joy. The thriller is all about living and breathing for justice for the victim. There's something very grounded about the murders. It treats death as the ultimate device. The detective is broken up about providing closure to families mourning. While there's an element of caring about what happened to Andi and how her sister mourns her death, this is kind of a game for Benoit Blanc. In real life, that's a trait that would make him a sociopath, manipulating horrific events for the sake of joy.
Yet, we all want to see Benoit Blanc pull that off. (Okay, a lot of us don't. Don't write in absolutes, Tim.) There's something really messed up about the fact that, as macabre as the entire situation is, we need a Blanc to provide objectivity to these events. It's why these characters need to be so over-the-top. There's a scene in Glass Onion that is just pure joy. I might quote it forever. It's the iPad joke. Miles has his guests all sitting around a table, explaining the vibe of the next few days. Blanc, with just the right amount of social ineptitude, asks about a prize, ultimately coming up with an iPad as an offhanded remark. In that moment, we have this shift. Miles treats him like an idiot for suggesting an iPad. Blanc solves the mystery before it even starts. It's this moment that I realize that Blanc has been let off the chain in Glass Onion.
See, I really liked Knives Out, but I didn't necessarily love it. Yeah, Knives Out is a murder mystery and it's a good murder mystery. But it is about the family. Like my definition for the thriller, it is about obtaining justice. The death in itself is the driving cause. It makes it about the family and Benoit Blanc, despite being the main character, is an outsider. But Glass Onion, he's front and center. He's driving so much of the story and I absolutely adore that. We're often attracted to these over-the-top detectives. Sherlock Holmes is fun because he's smart, but he's also a bit of a card. Benoit Blanc, same deal. His genius drives the plot forward, but his personality is what keeps us coming back to watch these movies for fun. As part of what makes the whole thing genius is that Blanc makes us see the world in the way that he sees it. The film is called Glass Onion, after the Beatles song. Two seconds of thought reveal what the title means, beyond the bar the suspects went to as young adults. The movie even explains the metaphor clearly. So when we see the movie in the same way Benoit Blanc does, we understand that the movie is a glass onion: something seeming to have layers but is way more straightfoward than the characters would have you to believe.
Hey, thanks for reminding me to talk about Ben Shapiro. I know it wasn't that long for you, if you read this far, but for me? My brain was in a whole different place and time passes in the weirdest way while writing. Ben Shapiro hated this movie. It's because he's a little troll and he's made the world a worse place through his political commentary. Okay. That's out there. But the reason that he hated the film was because it had misdirects. I know I'm spelling out the obvious, but that's what makes murder mysteries fun. When we think we know one thing and something else happens, that's fun storytelling. Rian Johnson gets that. There's probably a way to tell the Glass Onion plot that would make it horribly mundane. But this all ties back to Rian Johnson as auteur. (See, Star Wars guy, I can movie past it!) Rian Johnson almost is a character in Glass Onion in the best way possible. There's this idea with comedy that good comedy doesn't go from A to B to C. Good comedy jumps from A to C and demands that the audience keeps up. The same is true for this movie. Telling this story from A to B to C would be doing a disservice. But telling things from multiple perspectives in the wrong order creates something magical that a lot of films can't get away with. When we are watching the first part of the movie, we're watching the film from the perspective of Miles and his cronies. It is not a mislead. It's just the information that certain people have. Then we are watching the movie from Blanc's perspective. It's great. Instead of the villain being the liar, the hero is the liar for a good reason. The takeaway? Ben Shapiro is a moron and I loved watching him get roasted on Twitter because I'm petty.
My final thought on this isn't about the quality of the film. I've been preaching how brilliant this movie is. What I am going to say is that it is weird that we don't have more pandemic movies. Films during World War II often acknowledged that World War II was happening. It's not like it didn't happen. But very few pop culture things have any references to the pandemic at all for 2020-2022. I know that This is Us did something. But, if nothing else, I love that we have at least one work of fiction that felt like an authentic pandemic story. And I also love that the events on the island may have been a super-spreader event becuase Miles is a moron.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.