Stars of Netflix’s ‘Knives Out’ sequel appear in the Bay Area

It’s easy for Bay Area residents to become desensitized to film festivals since there are so many of them. The San Francisco International Film Festival, DocFest, the Silent Film Fest, there’s even a Drunken Film Fest. Oddly enough, though, the biggest of them all isn’t happening in San Francisco or even Oakland, but in Mill Valley.

In 2021, the headliners for the Mill Valley Film Festival were “Dune” and “The French Dispatch.” This year’s big movies are Brendan Fraser’s comeback “The Whale,” Don DeLillo’s adaptation of “White Noise” starring Adam Driver, “The Good Nurse” starring Jessica Chastain and the box-office hit opening night, “Glass Onion: A Knives.” Outside Mystery.”

The festivities kicked off at the Smith Rafael Film Center, with a line winding around the exterior of the three-screen art deco movie theater. Given the location, the festival has a reputation for older crowds and, in fact, there were more gray hairs than I’ve ever seen in a theater, mixed in with some young moviegoers hoping to snag a quick ticket. Good news for badgeless fans looking to check out future screenings: Everyone in line got in.

The cast of “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

John Wilson/Netflix

‘A knife’ returns

The original “Knives Out” was a surprise hit, grossing over $300 million worldwide on a modest $40 million budget. Netflix pounced on the franchise, picking up the rights to two sequels for a staggering $469 million, with director Rian Johnson, producer Ram Bergman and star Daniel Craig reportedly each earning more than $100 million from the deal. .

Instead of revisiting the characters from the original, “Glass Onion” sends superstar detective Benoit Blanc (Craig) on ​​a new mission. It takes place during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and could be the first blockbuster to acknowledge the change in American life. Blanc is wallowing in boredom, literally lying in his bathtub waiting for a new assignment when a mysterious puzzle box arrives on his doorstep. It contains an invitation to the private island of billionaire tech mogul Miles Bron (Edward Norton), an Elon Musk guy who has invited a bunch of his sycophantic friends over for a murder mystery weekend that, naturally, goes wrong.

Like the original, the cast is star-studded and they all owe Bron a debt. somehow. Janelle Monae steals the show as Bron’s spurned ex-business partner. Kathryn Hahn is a governor whose campaign is financed by Bron. Leslie Odom Jr. plays the chief scientist of Bron’s company. Kate Hudson is a former supermodel whose sweatpants fashion line born out of the pandemic is financed by Bron. And Dave Bautista gives a surprisingly charming performance as Joe Rogan-esque YouTube personality Duke Cody.

Behind the scenes of director Rian Johnson and star Janelle Monae in "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery."

Behind the scenes of director Rian Johnson and star Janelle Monae in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

John Wilson/Netflix

No spoilers, but…

While the original “Knives Out” felt like a classic Agatha Christie mystery, “Glass Onion” is as 2022 as it gets. Before arriving on the private island, each character lives a stereotypical pandemic life; for example, Hudson’s Hollywood party girl is criticized on Twitter for hosting a high-profile event. There are a lot of jokes about masks, and they are actually successful, but the COVID jokes fade into the background once the characters arrive on Bron Island and receive a secret vaccine only for rich people. It’s a smart storytelling move other filmmakers should take note of: Acknowledge the pandemic, but don’t dwell on it.

Norton is a perfect example of tech mogul excess, a Musk-esque “visionary” more obsessed with using the word disruption than worrying about the consequences of his empire. His private Greek island would make an excellent lair for a Bond villain (or as a vacation home for Jeff Bezos). The island hideout is almost a character unto itself, with massive scenes that couldn’t have been filmed anywhere else. Daniel Craig is a joy to watch, as is Janelle Monae, whose performance could jeopardize his music career because he will be in high demand in Hollywood.

Because the joy of “Glass Onion” is the mystery, I won’t drop any spoilers (except to say Johnson it serves another “Gravity’s Rainbow” reference). But suffice to say, it has all the same sparks of magic as the original, except everything is bigger and shinier, amplified by Netflix’s pre-firing war chest.

the cast of "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery."

The cast of “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

John Wilson/Netflix

Very vague questions and answers.

In a Q&A session moderated by Pixar Creative Director Pete Docter after the screening, Johnson, Bergman, Hudson, Odom and Hahn appeared onstage to share some thoughts on the production. Like most Q&As, it was mostly a gushing requirement about how much fun everyone on set had, with a few nuggets of production secrets. Johnson dropped references to some of his favorite mystery movies (“The Last of Sheila,” “Evil Under the Sun”) and explained the “Glass Onion” concept of peeling back the plot layers midway through to let the spectator in the mystery.

“The big structural conceit was the notion of, can you tell a story, then do this at the midpoint where you revisit it and get a new perspective,” said Johnson, who also snuck in several Beatles references as a nod to title.

Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Rian Johnson, Kathryn Hahn and Ram Bergman arrive at the Mill Valley Film Festival screening "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery."

Leslie Odom Jr., Kate Hudson, Rian Johnson, Kathryn Hahn and Ram Bergman arrive at the Mill Valley Film Festival screening of “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

Miikka Skaffari/Getty Images

Johnson confirmed that the careful attention to continuity will reward viewers with plenty of Easter eggs on their second viewing.

“We played very, very fair with it… I’m so paranoid I’m going to talk about it. When a certain gun is stolen from a certain person, if you look at it a second time, you can see the gun and where they’re hiding it,” Johnson said, noting that the gun in question only appears on screen for about five frames.

The Q&A closed with Docter saying how excited he was to see the movie again, and the feeling seemed palpable in the crowd. Like the original “Knives Out,” “Glass Onion” will be even funnier the second time around, but the lucky fans who caught the early screening will have to wait a couple of months to see it again. Although Netflix has the rights to the film, “Glass Onion” will have a fairly unique release, with a week-long “sneak preview” in 600 US theaters from November 23-29 before hitting Netflix a month later. , on December 2. 23

The Mill Valley Film Festival continues through October 16.

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