Writer-director Rian Johnson sure is having fun these days. They let him into the Star Wars sandbox, and he built a monument to feminine genius that enraged a measurable portion of the fanbase and still managed to make over a billion dollars. (Sure, it was half of what J.J. abrams managed with his reboot/remake, but it weren’t no fan service, that’s for sure.) Now he’s pulling a reverse Netflix — slapping a TV-style Family Mansion Murder Mystery, the sort so ably handled by our British cousins, up there on the big screen —and turning it into a critique of American anti-immigration sentiment. The immigrant in question —actually, it’s her mother who is undocumented — is Marta (Ana de Armas) the caregiver for a fabulously successful mystery author (Christopher Plummer). An author who, as it happens, is also the victim. The presumptive heirs — a splendid collection of wretches, none of whom can remember exactly what country Marta hails from — were already gathered for Dad’s 85 birthday, so they stick around for the reading of the will, and also the investigation spearheaded by Daniel Craig in full Southern accent, for some reason. The goal here, besides solving the mystery in suitably clever fashion, seems to be to provide families gathered for Thanksgiving with both a rollicking good time and something to argue about at table. (A measurable portion of old white relatives may be enraged.) You can practically see Johnson’s mischievious grin in every frame. (2019) — Matthew Lickona
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