Doughnuts, Dogs, and Detectives

From the moment I saw the trailer, I knew that this was a film I had to see.  A quirky mystery film with an all-star cast – I just couldn’t resist it.  And boy, was this a fun movie.  There weren’t as many twists and turns as I was expecting, and I found the identity of the murder was fairly obvious, but Rian Johnson’s work was exceptionally entertaining and I had some good laughs.  So many little details were well thought out, the acting was fantastic, and the visual style of the film was really appealing to me. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

(Warning: this is not a spoiler free blog post)

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The notion of looking at the crime like a doughnut was absolutely ridiculous, until I realized that the “doughnut” had been a recurring motif in the film all along. Props and set pieces that were significant to the plot were round with empty centres – like doughnuts! The piece of the broken trellis that indicates someone climbed up to the trick window is circular, and the display of prop knives is wreath-like in that this display also has no centre.  There are even actual wreaths reflected in a car window in one of the later scenes.  I would love to re-watch the film to see if I can spot any other “doughnuts” now that I know what to look for.  And the reason why the crime does not make sense is that the centre of the doughnut is missing.  I saw the physical representation of the centre of the doughnut as the baseball from Harlan’s office.  It was something that belonged to the victim, and it was carried around by the dogs.  The dogs help return the “centre”/baseball back to where it belongs in the house, and it is the presence of the dogs that forms one of the most significant clues of the film.  Thanks to the dogs, it is very obvious who the killer is.

As the film progressed, I had 3 running theories about who the killer was. Early on in the film, there are a number of red herrings as many of the characters have motive and opportunity for committing the crime. But even Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) draws attention to the fact that these potential motives are far too obvious. Once the story progressed a little further, my initial gut reaction was that Ransom (Chris Evans) was behind the murder because of the way the dogs reacted to him. Although Marta’s (Ana de Armas) actions accounted for many of the clues, they did not explain the barking dogs in the night; and the dogs only ever barked around Ransom.

However, since there were so many obvious red herrings, I was hesitant to fully accept that Ransom could be the killer. I found him to be so obvious that I thought maybe he was a red herring as well.  In fact, given how over-the-top the characters and scenarios were, I was almost hoping for an over-the-top and absurd ending.  One of my theories was that Harlan (Christopher Plummer) had faked his own death.  He was a mystery writer, so he knew how to stage the perfect crime, and early in the film he drew attention to the fact that he couldn’t always tell the difference between a prop knife and a real knife.  This did become significant later on, however, when Ransom could not tell the difference between a prop and the real thing when he attacked Marta.

My third, and most outrageous theory, was a twist ending would reveal that Marta had been the mastermind all along.  I’ll admit, there are a lot of holes in this theory, and it made it to the list simply because it was so absurd, and at times I felt like the film needed an absurd ending.  Marta made it to my personal list of potential suspects because she could play Go better than Ransom.  My theory was that even though Ransom was guilty of some of the crimes, Marta still would have bested him as the main mastermind.  However, Marta was only better at Go than the other players in the film because she played it her own way.  Throughout the film, while the members of the Thrombey clan were scheming and plotting, Marta dealt with the goings on in her own way; as a result, she was the only truly good character in the film.  This is why she was the only one to come out on top in the end.

Part of me wanted an over the top ending because of the style of the film.  This was clearly an homage to the mystery genre and featured many classic elements and references.  From the gentleman detective, to the trick window, to the dogs in the night, and much more, this story was never really about the story.  The characters were all caricatures, and the scenarios were ridiculous, but this movie was nothing but fun.  It was practically a love letter to the mystery genre. I would love to watch this one again.

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