Crooked House (film)

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Crooked House
Crooked House film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Produced by Joseph Abrams
Sally Wood
James Spring
Screenplay by Julian Fellowes
Tim Rose Price
Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Based on Crooked House
by Agatha Christie
Starring Glenn Close
Terence Stamp
Max Irons
Stefanie Martini
Julian Sands
Honor Kneafsey
Christian McKay
Amanda Abbington
Gillian Anderson
Christina Hendricks
Music by Hugo de Chaire
Cinematography Sebastian Winterø
Edited by Peter Christelis
Production
company
Brilliant Films
Fred Films
Distributed by Sony Pictures
Release date
  • 31 October 2017 (2017-10-31) (Italy)
Running time
115 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $10 million[1]

Crooked House is a British mystery film directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, based on Agatha Christie’s 1949 novel of the same name. The film stars Max Irons, Terence Stamp, Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, and Stefanie Martini. Principal photography began in September 2016, and the film aired in the UK on Channel 5 on 17 December 2017.

Plot[edit]

The granddaughter of late business tycoon Aristide Leonides, Sophia Leonides, visits private investigator Charles Hayward in his office. Sophia hires Charles to investigate Aristide's death, for she believes he was murdered by a member of his sprawling and idiosyncratic family. Sophia notes that Leonides' regular insulin injection had been laced with eserine from his eye drops, the resulting chemicals in them causing him to die. Sophia believes this to have been a deliberate switch rather than accidental. Charles begrudgingly agrees to take on the case as a result of his feelings for Sophia as the two had enjoyed a brief love affair when they had met sometime prior in Cairo. Charles seeks the consent of Chief Inspector Taverner of Scotland Yard to look into the case, utilising his personal connection with Taverner, who had served with Charles's father, a decorated former Assistant Commissioner who was murdered.

Charles visits the Leonides estate and proceeds to interview the various members of the family, finding various motives from each. Charles begins with Lady Edith De Haviland, the sister of Leonides's first wife, who despised her brother-in-law and his callous attitude towards her grandchildren. Leonides's eldest son, Philip, hated his father for passing him over to run the family business and for refusing to take interest in a new play he'd written for his wife, Magda, a fading theatre actress. Philip and Magda provided Leonides with three grandchildren, namely Sophia and the precocious younger children Eustace and Josephine. Eustace takes a dislike to Charles and seeks to hamper him where possible whilst Josephine makes clear to Charles that she eavesdrops on everyone around the house, makes notes about their private lives and dislikes most of her family except for Edith and Sophia.

Charles subsequently finds that Leonides' younger son, Roger, the emotionally immature managing director of the family's flagship business, was reliant upon his father bailing out the business numerous times due to his poor management. The fact that Leonides was so willing to bail Roger out did not sit well with either Roger, due to his pride, or his domineering wife Clemency. Charles further finds that Leonides' second wife, Brenda, a much younger former Las Vegas casino dancer, is suspected by the rest of the family as having committed the murder. Evidence seems to back this up due to the facts that Brenda had been having an affair with Laurence Brown, the private tutor for the Leonides children, as well as that she administered the fatal dose of drugs to Leonides and that she stood to inherit the entirety of the Leonides estate due to him not having signed a will, meaning he died intestate and thus his estate passed to her.

Charles's investigations and questions are met with hostility by most of the family whilst Josephine cryptically hints at clues along the way, to Charles's irritation, as he finds her treating the investigation as a game to be tiresome. Events take a new, horrific turn when the ladder to Josephine's treehouse is sabotaged and she falls from the tree, being hospitalised as a result. Charles suspects that this was due to Josephine's habit of spying on the other family members and the killer thus wanting to silence her. In the aftermath, Charles's suspicions are heightened and even extend to Sophia after a new will is discovered in which Leonides had left his estate to her, with some arguing that Sophia hired Charles to investigate the murder due to their personal history, knowing he would never accuse her due to their romantic past.

After those developments, Taverner arrives in person to take charge of the case as he feels Charles' romantic history with Sophia does not make him objective enough to solve it. The discovery of love letters between Brenda and Laurence gives Taverner enough evidence to arrest them for Leonides' murder and the attempt on Josephine, to the delight of most of his family members who had always hated both. Charles, however, remains unconvinced that Brenda and Laurence are guilty, noting Brenda's childlike intelligence and Laurence's pacifist, left-wing views as making them unlikely candidates for being a murderer. Sophia and Edith seem to agree, with Sophia noting how the letters could have been forged and Edith paying for a top rate lawyer to represent Brenda and Laurence in court. In the meantime, however, Charles returns to London and only returns to the estate when Josephine's nanny dies after being poisoned by drinking a mug of hot chocolate that she had made for Josephine.

Charles implores Josephine to tell her who the killer is as he has worked out she knows their identity. Again, Josephine refuses to tell. After it is established that the nanny died of cyanide poisoning, Charles begins to suspect Edith as he knew she had been using cyanide to remove moles in the estate garden. His search of Edith's garden shed finds a bottle of cyanide as well as Josephine's missing notebook, complete with her notes on each member of the family. Edith drives out of the family estate with Josephine, having also left a note for Charles to find. Charles and Sophia take off in pursuit of Edith in a car chase to try and stop them. In the car, Sophia reads the note that Edith had left in which she confesses to the murder but Charles argues that he believes Edith is not the killer.

Sophia reads extracts from Josephine's notebook in which the child admits to murdering Leonides purely because he had refused to pay for her ballet lessons. The notebook further reveals that Josephine had also faked the attack on herself and had poisoned her nanny when the latter began to suspect Josephine. Lady Edith had worked out that Josephine was the killer and planted evidence and wrote the confession note to spare Josephine a life in psychiatric institutions and exonerate Brenda and Laurence. Edith had earlier been informed that she was dying of cancer and so decided to sacrifice herself to protect Josephine and the rest of the family. Edith realises that Charles and Sophia are pursuing her and so she drives her car over the clifftop of a quarry, killing herself and Josephine. The film ends as Charles comforts a shocked Sophia at the edge of the cliff.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

The mystery drama is based on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name. Principal photography began in September 2016.[2] Part of the filming was done at King's College London's Maughan Library. Other parts were filmed at Tyntesfield, near Bristol.[citation needed] Minley Manor near Fleet, Hampshire, was used as the location for the external shots of Crooked House. The look of the movie was created by award winning Production Designer Simon Bowles.

Music[edit]

The film's original score is by Hugo de Chaire.[3]

Changes from source material[edit]

Whilst the film remains largely faithful to Christie's book, there were some changes, among them:

  • Charles's father, Sir Arthur Hayward, is deceased. He is referred to as an Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard but was murdered. Chief Inspector Taverner assumes some of the qualities and the role played by Sir Arthur.
  • Charles and Sophia are no longer in a relationship. Their love affair beginning in Cairo ended when Sophia refused to introduce Charles to her family and after she found out he was spying on her for the Foreign Office due to their interest in Leonides's business affairs. The ending of the film is open-ended as to whether they will reconcile.
  • Nanny is poisoned by cyanide, not digitalis.
  • Lady Edith addresses her confession note to Charles instead of Taverner.
  • Lady Edith does not leave the second letter for Charles and Sophia outlining Josephine as the killer. Instead, Charles finds Josephine's notebook and that is used for Charles and Sophia as confirmation that Josephine is the killer.
  • The ages of Philip and Roger are switched around. Philip becomes the eldest son, this forming part of his motive to kill Aristide as he had been passed over to run the family business for his younger brother, Roger.
  • The story is set a decade later to 1950s London, as evidenced by one of the film's characters referencing the execution of the murderess Ruth Ellis in 1955.
  • Charles Hayward's automobile, a Bristol 405, was not introduced until 1955.
  • The conversation with the lawyer mentioned that will was signed in 1957.
  • The film adaptation portrays Brenda as a dancer, rather than a waitress and the book says nothing about her being American.
  • In the book Josephine is knocked out with a heavy ornament, whilst the film shows her fall from a treehouse.

Reception[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 56%, based on 25 reviews, with an average rating of 5/10.[4] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 8 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Crooked House". Cinando. Retrieved 19 October 2016.
  2. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (13 September 2016). "Agatha Christie thriller 'Crooked House' underway". Screen Daily. Screen International. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
  3. ^ de Chaire, Hugo (26 November 2016). "Composer on Feature Film 'Crooked House'". Hugo de Chaire. Archived from the original on 27 November 2016. Retrieved 26 November 2016.
  4. ^ "Crooked House (2017)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  5. ^ "Crooked House Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 February 2018.

External links[edit]