By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Reporter
John Lennon and Paul McCartney song Glass Onion is full of red herrings and so is Rian Johnson’s new film, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. There are no strawberry fields or walruses (although the song is part of the soundtrack), but there are two Hapa actors in the mix: Dave Bautista who is part Filipino and Jessica Henwick who is part Singaporean-Chinese of Teochew descent.
Bautista plays Twitch star and men’s rights advocate Duke Cody (Dave Bautista) who has sexy blonde girlfriend and channel assistant, Whiskey (Madelyn Cline). Henwick is the mousie personal assistant, Peg, to supermodel turned fashion mogul Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson).
Duke and Birdie are close friends with Miles Bron (Edward Norton), the CEO and founder of technology Alpha Industries. Each year, Miles invites members of his closest inner circle to a weekend of bonding and entertainment. The other members of this inner circle are his head scientist at Alpha Industries Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) and governor of Connecticut Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn) who is now running for senator. The circle used to include Cassandra “Andi” Brand (Janelle Monáe), until their recent acrimonious breakup. This year (2020), he has sent each of them a puzzle box made of wood. Duke, Birdie, Lionel and Claire band together to solve the puzzles (with the help of a famous Asian American making a cameo appearance).
The theme for this year’s gathering is a murder mystery. Miles will be the intended victim, but, as you might expect from murder mysteries of the past, an actual murder will be involved.
While no one expects Andi to have the audacity to show up, she does, but she isn’t the only unexpected guest. The world-famous detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) also arrives.
Johnson, who wrote and directed the film, doesn’t ignore the COVID-19 pandemic, he embraces it. Birdie’s fashion empire was fueled by stay-at-home everywhere casual dress and she blithely rationalized her continued partying, saying that the people are all part her extensive pod. Duke might have been forced to live with his mother or perhaps that’s the way he navigates life as a Twitch influencer. An efficient assistant (another cameo) provides a fictional means for all the characters to roam maskless on the island.
Yet social isolation hasn’t been easy on Benoit. He has been living in his bathtub due to pandemic depression and he’s been playing “Among Us,” a role-playing video game about both betrayal and team work (according to Apple). Benoit is so famous, his fellow players include the late legends Angela Lansbury and Stephen Sondheim as well as Natasha Lyonne and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (as themselves).
Benoit needs real people with real problems. “I need danger, the hunt, the challenge.” Benoit is the first new person at this private event in eight years and when interrogated by Miles, Benoit says, “I’ve learned through bitter experience, an anonymous invitation is not to be trifled with.”
The Glass Onion is the island paradise home that Miles has built and powers with a newly invented energy source. Each guest has a private room, but the public areas feel like an intimate high-end art gallery, filled with glass objects, many related to actual famous art pieces.
The weekend murder mystery is quickly unraveled by Benoit, but then the lights go out and someone has been shot. By the end, Benoit will unravel a murder mystery and find out the true significance of the Glass Onion and the connections between Miles and his inner circle. The characters of both Bautista and Henwick are integral to the mystery. Murder mystery fans might feel cheated because the clues aren’t all there. Still, this is a delightful addition to the genre.
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is a good sequel to the 2019 Knives Out and both include excellent ensembles. This fun film made its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and began a limited theatrical release on 23 November 2022. It will begin streaming on Netflix on 23 December 2022. The official website includes a puzzle solve, but don’t forget to click on the lightbulb for the hint.
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