2023, Movies

A Haunting in Venice (2023, Kenneth Branagh)

This is a Halloween-themed Agatha Christie adaptation. Apparently the original novel actually has it in the title. My understanding is, like Branagh’s other Christie adaptations, this one is loosely based on the source material. (Perhaps more so than the other two.)

I must say I was bored by the initial conceit, Poirot being brought along to debunk a séance. I was actually happy when it reverted to formula if only because that seemed to be more interesting than “Poirot the debunker.” But it does revert to the formula and, as such, is fine overall, I guess.

But there are some big problems.

Arguably the biggest is Fey, who is just not very good in this role. We talked about this and we think that Fey really needs to be in a comedy role where she’s not asked to do much. She has some lines here, sure, but this is mostly not a comedic film. And she’s just not great. Often she sounds like she’s doing an impression of what she thinks a woman in a Hollywood ’40s caper comedy sounds like, and then she doesn’t sound like that at all a sentence later.

But Branagh also doesn’t trust his audience. He lets on too soon as to who done it. We both figured it out and we weren’t really trying. Actually, we both figured it out and independent thought “There’s no way it would be [redacted], because they’re telegraphing it.” And yet… And then when it comes to revealing the last point of the plot, Branagh the actor tells us twice who the blackmailer was, as if the first time we weren’t sure. If the script was like that, Branagh the director should have known not to include the spelling out lines.

Death on the Nile actually kind of bothered me. I saw no reason for it to exist. I felt strongly enough about it that we have yet to watch his Murder on the Orient Express. (We’ve seen the ’70s versions.) But this one didn’t elicit those feelings. I just don’t think it was very good despite the budget.


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