A skewering of whodunits and a winking backstage comedy, “See How They Run,” at the Jane Pickens Theater Oct. 11-15, crams a lot, sometimes too much, into just under two hours.
But the film is a clever and entertaining homage in the vein of “Knives Out” and its upcoming sequel, “Glass Onion.” It’s obvious that the top-notch ensemble cast, especially Saoirse Ronan, is having a blast.
The setting is 1953 London, where the long-running Agatha Christie play “The Mousetrap” is about to celebrate its 100th performance. Leo Köpernick (Adrien Brody), a self-centered Hollywood director, has been hired to turn the popular parlor room mystery into a movie. But when Köpernick turns up dead, the show’s actors and backstage personnel immediately become suspects, just like in the play. They could also be potential victims, also just like in the play.
The rascally bunch includes the movie’s pompous screenwriter, Mervyn (David Oyelowo), who voiced major creative differences with Köpernick just before his demise; Richard “Dickie” Attenborough (Harris Dickinson), the handsome, polished star of the play; and the no-nonsense theater owner (Ruth Wilson), who doesn’t want a movie version to cut into her box office.
Inspector Stoppard (Sam Rockwell), the standard rumpled, harddrinking, trench coat-clad detective, is assigned to the case and paired with a rookie, Constable Stalker (Ronan). The gumshoe odd couple is played for expected laughs, but Ronan elevates the material as the earnest, utterly charming Stalker, displaying crack comic timing and even getting the chance to show off a killer imitation of Katharine Hepburn in “The African Queen.”
Director Tom George, working with a script by Mark Chappell, lets the cast have fun with the material. The film is great to look at, with stylish settings in plush theaters, backstage dressing rooms, the Savoy Hotel, and on shimmering city streets under bright marquees.
The spritely direction is sometimes reminiscent of Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers’ comedies like “Hail, Caesar!” that wink at the audience with insider jokes and visuals, such as split screen and intertitles. The action culminates, as expected, with all the suspects converging at the home of Christie (Shirley Henderson). Life imitates art as, just like in “The Mousetrap,” the murderer, with a rather disturbing motivation, is revealed.
“See How They Run,” with its title alluding to mice and, yes, there is one that scampers across the floorboards, is a pleasurable escape that skewers murder-mystery conventions while also relying on them. Unlike “Knives Out,” which was both a sendup and a well-constructed puzzle, “See How They Run” is mostly surface cleverness rather than a satisfying whodunit. Enlivened by a terrific cast, it’s a valentine to the genre rather than a formidable entry.
There’s still one more day to experience the intoxicating “Moonage Daydream” at the Pickens Theater, since director Brett Morgen’s kaleidoscopic deep dive into David Bowie’s unique sound and vision screens to Oct. 7.
This isn’t a typical music documentary. There are no talking heads and no linear biographical narrative. Instead, Bowie, who died six years ago, tells his story in his own words from decades of interviews. Morgen’s non-biographical approach is likely what earned him the trust of Bowie’s estate.
Morgen has been down the fully immersive documentary road before. He crafted memorable films from footage of Hollywood producer Robert Evans for “The Kid Stays in the Picture;” musician Kurt Cobain for “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck;” and renowned primatologist Jane Goodall for “Jane,” his 2017 film compiled from hours of film footage shot by Hugo van Lawick that was rediscovered in 2014.
“Moonage Daydream,” packed with rare footage, including live performances of Bowie singing the title song as well as “Space Oddity,” “Sound and Vision,” “Heroes” and many more, is rooted in Bowie’s philosophy of transience and reinvention. These are the elusive qualities that made him both enigmatic and irresistible as a musician who was also a painter, actor, writer and, above all, a visionary.