While looking up releases for our Now Playing feature, I come across all sorts of films I want to see. Presently equipped with Moviepass, I’m only stopped from seeing everything based on what comes to my local indie theater as they play about two films per week. Usually, they are delayed out a bit because their distributors obviously charge more money closer to release. So when I saw Crooked House was playing only a week out, I was both intrigued and wary.
Crooked House is the second film adaption from author Agatha Christie in 2017 after Murder on the Orient Express. If you haven’t at least heard the name of Agatha Christie, I’d be quite shocked. Christie is just about tied with Shakespeare as the best selling author of all-time at about 4 billion copies sold. While I’m a fan of Christie, I have not had the chance to read Crooked House before I saw the film. I did, however, peruse the plot after and it seems like a few liberties were taken. Although a few seem like a better choice overall.
Three generations of the Leonides family live together under a wealthy patriarch, Aristide. Even though he is rather old and decrepit, his death is ruled a possible homicide. His granddaughter Sophia hires a young private investigator, Charles Hayward, to help find the murderer as she suspects it is someone in the family. She picked Charles knowing she’d be able to trust him as a former lover when they were in Cairo together.
Aristide’s first wife’s sister, Edith (Glenn Close), is there and helps out with the children. His new wife Brenda (Christina Hendricks), who is about 50 years his junior stands to inherit all of his wealth due to his forgetting to sign his will. There is knowledge and rumor that she is having an affair with children’s tutor, Mr. Brown. Though we are lead to believe Aristide knew and consented.
His children and grandchildren also live in the house, I could list them but you would be better served to watch the film or reading the book if you want to know all about them. The film revolves around Charles and Sophia and trying to find out who killed the head of the household. Everyone at one point or another comes under suspicion, even Sophia.
It’s a pretty standard mystery film and the director doesn’t give much away. Even looking back there were no overt clues as to who the killer is, though I suppose they do spend more time on some while others are relegated to side characters. This is probably the inherent flaw in the film. Where a book you can develop a cavalcade of characters such as this, you have to pick and choose in the who to focus on. Otherwise, the film could easily be double the length.
Some side characters did at least add something. Eustace, the teenage grandson, had some great comic relief scenes and threw the other characters for a loop. The police and anyone not in the house were pretty forgettable and could have been cut.
Hendricks and Gillian Anderson were great in their limited roles. The leads of Max Irons and Stefanie Martini were solid. I didn’t think they carried the film, but with the rest of the performances being decent they fit in nicely. My one disappointment might actually be Glenn Close. This might actually be a testament to her career, but she didn’t wow me. I guess my expectations were too high. She was good, just not what I had come to expect.
Director Gilles Paquet-Brenner’s last four films have been adaptions, he was probably a decent choice to direct. Some of the changes he made seem well thought out and provide a little more context to the situation, though I still wouldn’t be surprised if people that have read the book aren’t thrilled with this adaption.
Crooked House Final Thoughts: 3/5
Overall, Crooked House was a slightly better than average mystery film. It was well paced and I think fans of mysteries will want to at least give it a rental. With not giving away clues throughout the film, I’m not sure this will hold up to repeated viewings. Other than the subject being a murder, I think this actually could be a fun family film trying to figure out who the culprit is. Nothing is too grotesque and the language is fairly clean. So if you have kids that you let watch PG-13 films or older family members that you wouldn’t want to watch something like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with, this might be perfect.
This film is one of the seemingly growing numbers to have had VOD releases before even being in theaters. So you can actually rent or buy now from Amazon and not need to leave the house.