I remember watching Knives Out for the first time nearly 2 years ago. I was curled up on the couch beside my mom, who also hadn’t seen it, and my brother across the room, who had applauded the movie for weeks before that night. I had heard snippets from friends, social media, and news articles praising the new release and its fresh take on the old “whodunnit” plotline. I couldn’t wait. And from the opening scene, dramatic music, and mysterious characters to the scrawling credits at the end, I was blown away.

After many years and reruns later, I’m gradually realizing why this movie is so captivating. The big budget, famous actors and actresses, and general aesthetic weren’t the core factors. It was the brilliant interweaving of storytelling and relatability that made the characters soar beyond scenes and their dialogue beyond scripts. The screenwriters drilled to the fundamentals of communication, and this end result will be treasured long past our own generation.

This leads me to a fascinating concept: what makes screenwriting so unique? While I wish I knew more about the tactics used for effective scripts in a film, several fascinating resources explain how the magic behind the camera blooms alive on the screen.

First, the characters aren’t average people. Each character is so different, from Blanc’s thick accent to Marta’s barfing to Linda’s connection with her late father, each person is relatable and quirky enough to bond with the audience while respectfully dealing with the murdered old man in the center of the plot. The story focuses on developing the characters, and in the process, they discover the true reason for Harlan’s death. Audiences like distinctive, and this movie dishes it out by the bucketloads.

Creating and understanding the depth of moral conflict within this key character-driven story moment, the “story decision” that opens the window to discovering what your story is really about.

The dialogue is brilliantly crafted. It’s hard to convey a train of thought, much less one that consistently builds tension through the plot while also staying funny. No matter how often I watch the scenes or how well I know the plotline, I’ll keep laughing at the quirky interactions. They’re just too fresh to not pause and enjoy.

I spoke in the car about the hole at the center of this donut. And yes, what you and Harlan did that fateful night seems at first glance to fill that hole perfectly. A donut hole in the donut's hole. But we must look a little closer. And when we do, we see that the donut hole has a hole in its center. It is not a donut hole at all, but a smaller donut with its own hole. And our donut is not whole at all!

The aesthetics gather into a unified theme. Thanks to this movie, I can clearly envision  Massachusetts rural wealthy life during the late autumn, whether there’s a murder or not. The clothing, setting, and natural environment consistently follows the fall color palate of mustard yellows, red wine, and olive with a punchy blue mixed in. The tone is the perfect  backdrop surrounding the gruesome, bloody, and complicated murder. Other details, ranging from the “My House My Rules My Coffee” mug to Harlan’s books in his library, ensure that life depicted in the movie is sealed within our own reality. What flawless signature of mastery could an audience better enjoy?

(Title Photo Credit: https://www.cover-addict.com/2019/12/knives-out-dvd-label.html)

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