Who doesn’t love a damn good whodunit? I love all the (mostly incorrect) guessing, the red herrings and the final reveal – it’s all so deliciously satisfying. But does this tale suffer for not having a stong central character à la Miss Marple/Hercule Poirot? We’ll see.
Crooked House (2017)
In Agatha Christie’s most twisted tale, a spy-turned-private-detective is lured by his former lover to catch her grandfather’s murderer before Scotland Yard exposes dark family secrets.
Hot Private Dick Charles Hayward (Irons) is all out of sorts when his former lover, the beautiful Sophia De Haviland (Martini) turns up in his office, all red lips and jewel-coloured tones. Although the pair parted on bad terms – after a romp in Cairo – here she is asking him to solve her grandpapa’s murder. Bit cheeky if you ask me but there’s still feeling there between them so no judgement for now.
Charles flip flops back and forth on whether he should take the assignment given the conflict of interest but he eventually gives in, not least because the publicity from solving such a case, surrounding the death of a very wealthy and famous buisness man will do his one man outfit the world of good. Plus, he wants to know why Sophia left him in the first place.
Chief Inspector Taverner (Terence Stamp) of Scotland Yard gives Charlie his blessing. Which is pretty decent of him.
When Charles gets to Aristide Leonides’ sprawling estate it soon becomes clear that this is a family with secrets. The walls practically creak with scandal and intrigue. Right away Charlie bonds with the youngest resident, Sophia’s baby sister Josephine (Honor Kneafsey) who is something of an amateur sleuth. Bored out of her box, she looks for clues in every corner – and keeps record in her notebook.
Also living in the house are Aristide’s two bickering sons, their wives and his own sexy wife, former dancer Brenda (Hendricks). There’s also the nanny, his first’s wife’s sister, another grandson and the children’s personal tutor, Laurence. Phew.
Obviously, everyone’s a suspect.
As Charles visits each member of the family/household, one by one, he realises there are motives everywhere. Brenda was banging Laurence (John Heffernan) – therefore has a very good reason for wanting her husband out of the picture. Aristide’s eldest son Philip (Julian Sands) hated his guts. Meanwhile, Sophia looks set to inherit everything given that her grandpapa failed to sign his will – ooooooh!
So the question is: who?
Was it saucy Brenda with her curves to die for, skanking about with the hired help on her husband’s dime? Could it be Edith De Haviland, Aristide’s ex-sister-in-law who despised him for his coolness towards his grandchildren?
What about beautiful Sophia, who’s about to become a very rich woman indeed? Nanny (Jenny Galloway) might be pissed off about low pay maybe. And Clemency (Amanda Abbington) is a literal botanist (the victim was poisoned) – could she have knocked off her father-in-law? After all, she and her son Roger are barely keeping it together financially.
Was in one of the neglected grandkids – sly Josephine or snarky Eustace (Preston Nyman), sick of mean Gramps, hellbent on revenge or excitement? I guess all bets are off when you enter Christie’s imagination – but it’s fun trying to work it all out. Will Charles get to the answer quick enough, especially since more murders have start to happen around him?
You know what to do.
This movie looks great, the setting is exactly what you’d expect and enjoy about a film like this – and it is enjoyable, perfect for a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know about it being Christie’s most twisted story but then again the final reveal is an interesting one that doesn’t pull its punches. I like it for that.
Charles himself doesn’t have much going on apart from a pretty face. He’s no Marple, no Poirot and yes, I do think the story suffers for that. I haven’t read enough Agatha Christie to know if he’s a reoccurring character but I do feel he lacks the charisma to bring this all together. His sexual chemistry with Sophia isn’t all that – and I don’t really care about the side story of their love affair.
I do love self-absorbed Magda – and Anderson is always an absolute delight. As a fading stage actress with a drink problem, she’s even more glorious. When an accident occurs and her youngest child ends up in hospital, she doesn’t even go and visit. What a dame.
Likewise, super snooper Josephine is so much fun. Lurking in shadows and listening at doors, she has her nose up in everybody’s business – and I love it. I also have all the time in the world for Edith, who has her own personal shit going on.
God I love murder mystery. I want more. Way, way more.
What does my prime suspect Jillian think of this tale? Would she work it out in the first first minutes or murder it in its sleep? Find out here.