Film Title: A Kind of Murder
Director: Andy Goddard
Release Date: December 2016
Plot Summary: Walter Stackhouse, an architect and writer, becomes intrigued by a news story about a man’s wife who was murdered. His inability to leave the ongoing case alone bites him in the ass as a new investigation involving his own wife centers around him.
I stumbled upon this movie while scrolling through my Netflix feed. I was drawn to the movie due to the time period (1960s), and where it took place (New York). The cast also seemed very fitting, with Patrick Wilson playing the main character, Jessica Biel playing his wife, and Haley Bennett playing a love-interest. I went into this movie without having seen the trailer, but the synopsis seemed interesting enough.
To start off, I was beyond excited to be watching a movie about someone who writes. The moment I see a typewriter on screen, regardless if anyone is even using it or not, I am fairly sure I’m going to be hooked. And I was. I was hooked for quite some time. There was an intriguing mystery taking place and I loved that there were parallels building between the man in the newspaper’s story as well as the main character’s story. However, this is also where the story began to become less concrete, almost to the point that it lost any real sensibility. Where I thought there was a meaning behind the parallels, the meaning quickly became skewd. There were times when I was genuinely surprised by the actions the main character was taking (particularly in regards to what he was telling to the investigator on his case), but not in a good way. I couldn’t figure out how he could be so stupid.
Sadly, I have to admit that the acting was also particularly poor. I enjoyed Wilson’s portrayal of his character, but Biel was extremely weak in her role and I found her so annoying that what happens to her didn’t bother me one bit. In addition, Bennett seemed to play a character oddly similar to her role in The Girl on the Train and I didn’t really see a point to her being there. Lastly, the investigator was ridiculously cheesy and I struggled to take him seriously. While I do feel as though his character was written to be that way, it just didn’t work for me. I ended up rooting for both men under investigation, whether they were guilty or not, to win out over the investigators.
The most frustrating part of this entire movie was the ending. The entire way through, I stayed thoroughly interested in the story, but when we finally make it to the end, nothing seemed to be solved. I struggled to find any reason for the presence of many side characters, I couldn’t find any real correlation between the two intertwined stories (the main character’s and the one in the paper), and I felt no satisfaction over the fate of any of the characters. I just really didn’t care what the outcome was, and the makers of the film didn’t seem to care either. What I had thought might be a main reasoning for Wilson’s actions (that he is a writer who finds inspiration and curiosity through other real events and stories), which might I add is something that I, and I think other writers, can relate to, was immediately shot down in the middle of the movie with a crystal clear declaration by the investigator that “THAT IS NOT A VALUABLE EXCUSE.” Then what is the excuse for any of the bazaar actions this character does? We are left with no real answers and no real reason to care. I’m dissapointed because I think this movie really had the potential to be great.
I can only recommend this movie for the visual elements that seemed to do a good of mirroring 1960s New York, and for the mysterious element that keeps you intrigued up until the end ruins it all. I always love how movies make me FEEL, and this was one that really had me excited and invested in the plot for quite some time. Perhaps you can turn the film off ten minutes before it ends and imagine the ending in your head, for I’m sure it would be better than the actual one.
Side note: This film is based on a book by Patricia Highsmith. Though I haven’t read it, it is something I’d be interested in picking up. If you’ve read the book I’d love to know if you liked it or if the movie did the book justice.