Film Review: Knives Out (2019)

This film was released to stellar reviews, both from critics, and many bloggers. I didn’t much like the sound of an ‘Agatha Christie-Style’ film that wasn’t actually written by Agatha, so waited until it arrived on TV (Film 4) to watch it. I finally got around to doing that last night.

Now I have to say that I rarely turn off a film before the end. I am usually happy to give even the most disappointing film its full running time, in the hope of being proved wrong. So if I tell you now that I turned this off after 45 minutes of its 2 hours+ running time, you are already getting some idea of how this review is going to go.

Let’s examine this in detail.

Stellar cast.

Daniel Craig.
Christopher Plummer.
Jamie Lee Curtis.
Chris Evans. (Who?)
Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Toni Collette.
Michael Shannon. (Great actor)
Don Johnson.
M. Emmet Walsh.
Frank Oz.
And many more…

Written and directed by Rian Johnson. (No relative, never heard of him. Have you heard of him?)

What could go wrong?

Well the first thing that could go wrong is that Daniel Craig plays an American private detective called ‘Benoit Blanc’. Someone decided that this actor, who is from England, should play Benoit with a ‘Southern American’ (as in New Orleans) accent. That fell at the first hurdle, so completely ruined the film. In the same way that Dick Van Dyke’s ‘London’ accent completely ruined ‘Mary Poppins’.

Daniel Craig might be an accomplished actor in many roles, but accents are not his forte. And a deep-south American accent was one too far for his talents.

After that, someone gets killed, everyone else except Benoit is a suspect, and after listening to his accent for 40+ minutes, I turned off this lamentable film.

That’s it. That’s the review. It is bloody awful, and if you liked it, I must have been watching a different film.
Here’s a trailer.

If you want to see Agatha Christie done properly, watch this instead.

“Proper London”

When I moved from London to Norfolk in 2012, I soon realised that my distinctive city accent was unfamiliar to many people I met locally. At least four people asked me if I was Australian, one asked me if I was Canadian, and another said he had never heard anyone from London speak, except on television.

I found it hard to believe that many people who had watched Michael Caine films, or the London-set soap opera ‘Eastenders’ had no idea that they were listening to London accents. Julie didn’t have the same issues. Although her accent is undoubtedly ‘Southern’ as far as British people are concerned, she is from Hertfordshire, not London. Although only 30 miles north-west of the capital, their accent is not the same as those of us born and bred in the centre.

When she worked at a bank in Dereham, she made friends with some of her colleagues. One in particular, Jo, was considerably younger than Julie, but became one of her closest friends, even to this day. Jo is from Norfolk, and has a distinct Norfolk accent. But she is also widely travelled, and can recognise British regional accents very easily. One evening, I had offered to give Julie a lift to a girl’s night out, at a restaurant in North Tuddenham. We picked Jo up on the way, and chatted happily during the 15-minute journey.

As they got out, Jo turned and said, “You’re proper London, you are”.

Thinking about that earlier today, it occured to me to explain some of the differences in what is undoubtedly working-class ‘London English’. One of the obvious speech patterns is that the letter ‘H’ is rarely sounded in casual conversation.

Hotel becomes ‘Otel’. Hat will be ‘Att’, with the emphasis on the ‘T’. This also applies to names of course.
Harry = ‘Arry’
Henry = ‘Enery’
Helen = ‘Ellen’
Then in general, ignore the ‘H’. Hitching a trailer would be ‘Itching a trailer’.
Going to hospital might sound like ‘Going to awspittle’.
Having a laugh is always ‘Avving a larff’, and so on.

A reply of I haven’t got any, would always be ‘I ain’t got none’.
I will fetch my car would be ‘I’ll get me motor’.

Words containing ‘th’ will usually have the letter ‘V’ substituted, sometimes more than one. Or the letter ‘F’.
Neither = ‘Neaver’
Whether = ‘Wevver’
Nothing = ‘Nuffin’

Others beginning with ‘th’ will have those replaced with an ‘F’.
Thing = ‘Fing’
Thermometer = ‘Furmommetta’
Think = ‘Fink’
Thought = ‘Faut’
Theatre = ‘Fearter’

I could go on all day.

So if you ever hear me talking, when I am relaxed and not being ‘careful’, bear in mind you may require a translator.

Regional prejudices

A short trip down memory lane last night had me thinking about just how different the various regions of this country can be. And you don’t have to travel very far to discover that.

Over the years, I have been to almost every corner of The British Isles, and have certainly visited every one of the main cities. Outside of tourist-orientated holiday spots where everyone is falsely welcomed, the look and feel of different parts of the UK was very noticeable, at one time. Then there are the accents of course. We have great variety of those, but I have written about that previously.

During the 1970s, I had to travel around for my job. I was excited by this prospect, as it would take me to places I had only ever heard about, or seen on TV. It never really occurred to me that it would be that different. After all, I was a Londoner. I came from a city that was the melting pot of Britain, and had almost as many non-Londoners living in it, as genuine ‘locals’. I departed on my travels armed with twenty-one years of my own regional prejudices. The North was grimy and industrial. The West Country was all about farming, and people who spoke like they had never been outside their village. Liverpudlians were edgy and aggressive, and the Welsh hated everyone who wasn’t Welsh. As for East Anglia, (where I live now of course) it was just a flat land full of people who sounded like idiots, and never ventured anywhere.

I didn’t care. I was from London. The best city in the world, and the shining star of Britain, undoubtedly. I was lucky indeed, to be a cockney.

As you might imagine, I got a shock.

People outside London didn’t seem to like us Londoners. They mimicked my accent, (badly) and were often outwardly hostile. I was less than 100 miles north, and already hearing the oft-repeated insult, ‘Soft Southerner’. Hadn’t these people ever heard how hard the streets of London could be to live on? The gangs, the crime, the crowds. Soft? Me? Once I got a lot further up, I became an oddity to be giggled at. Girls in a Newcastle club asked me to say sentences in my harsh London accent, and fell about laughing when I did. They would seek out a friend, bring her to where I was standing, and ask “Say that again, Pet”. (That’s not a typo of my name, they call everyone ‘Pet’.) These people had (still have) a language that was a ‘version’ of English. Their local dialect and sayings required the assistance of a translator, and they had the audacity to laugh at me?

I headed west, to the cities of Liverpool and Manchester. At the time, before much recent regeneration, those cities were bleak and industrial indeed. Young men swaggered around on the streets, and glared aggressively at me in bars or clubs. I wasn’t even talking, they just seemed to know that I was ‘different’ before I spoke. On the way home from a long trip, I had to go to Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which at the time was a coal-mining town. This was the ‘grimy and bleak’ I had imagined. Arriving in the rain, I stared at the sour-faced people, their faces devoid of joy or hope. I was only 141 miles away from London, yet felt I was in another country, at another period in history.

I was never so relieved to get home to what I saw as ‘normality’.

I had to travel again, many times. But I was forewarned, so forearmed, and I was a lot more careful about where I spent my free time. By 1979, I was no longer having to travel around other than for holidays, and as the old saying goes, I took my eye off the ball. In the late 1980s, I went to visit the parents of my then girlfriend. They lived in Yorkshire, a place I had mostly managed to avoid, short of the city of Leeds, and the coastal town of Scarborough. I had been there working with local men, who took me under their wing. This time, I was closer to the city of York, with a girlfriend who was originally from Northern Ireland, but had lived long enough in the county to sound local.

We went out to a pub in the town of Tadcaster, to meet some of her school-friends. I walked up to the bar to order some drinks, and as I said what we wanted, the barman turned and served someone else. When he had finished, I waved to him, and he came back. As I started to speak again, he smiled at me, and walked around to a different section of the bar. I was pretty angry by now, but aware that I was one Londoner in the equivalent of a one-horse town in bandit country. I walked back to the table, and explained to my girlfriend that he wouldn’t serve me. She went up to the bar, and spoke harshly to him. She was very feisty, and he was hardly prepared for her tirade. He served her the drinks, denying he had refused to serve me. He claimed he hadn’t noticed me waiting. We finished the drink, and decided to leave. There had to be a better pub than this, surely?

As we walked to the door, the barman said quite loudly, “F*****g Cockneys”.

For the last seven years, I have been living in the region that I had once written off as being flat, and full of idiots. There is less prejudice against me being a Londoner, but mainly because they are not really sure if I am. I have been asked where I come from more times than I can remember, and quite a few people have suggested that I might be Australian! It’s all very strange, even after such a long time. But there’s one thing I can be certain of.

I’m glad I didn’t move to Tadcaster.

Regional accents

In Britain, we have many regional accents. There are also the Irish, Welsh, and Scottish accents, as well as those from Australia and Africa, and the accents of people originating from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. In the UK, especially in the larger cities, we come into contact with all these accents on a daily basis, to the extent that they become normal, and unnoticed, to a large degree.

No doubt other countries have their accents to deal with. Even as a Londoner, I can tell the difference between an American from the deep south, say New Orleans, and a New Yorker. However, we cannot really differentiate between a Canadian, and an American, and I am not sure if they can either, though I suspect that they are able to. To our ears, every African accent is just African. We cannot really say if someone is from Sierra Leone, Nigeria, or Chad. Similarly, with accents from India. We cannot put hand on heart, and say someone is Indian, Sri Lankan, or Pakistani. Names help of course, as Nigerian names are often a giveaway, and nobody from Bangladesh has a non-Muslim name.

In the UK, there are distinctive accents from different regions, though again, we cannot, as Londoners, be more specific to location, on most occasions. There is an accent in the North-East of the country, centred on the Newcastle area, known as ‘Geordie’. Not only is this a pleasant sound, a sing-song accent easy on the ear, it also has unique words and phrases. All women and girls are generally called ‘pet’, and good things are known as ‘canny’. Nonetheless, the North-East is very large, and people outside of Newcastle bitterly resent being accused of having a Geordie accent. Unfortunately, for us southerners, Sunderland, Middlesborough, and Durham, are all too close geographically, and the accents too similar, for us to possibly comprehend the differences. Then there is Wales. Best considered to be another country, very different to the rest of the UK, and still clinging on to its own unique language. The place names are so unusual, they can only be pronounced by the Welsh. Despite a clear demarcation between the North and South of Wales, they all sound much the same to us.

The Scots. An accent so impenetrable, that TV often uses subtitles when a Scottish person is being interviewed. In the working-class districts of the major towns and cities, Glasgow for example, only a Scot would have a clue what was being said. The country areas of the UK; Norfolk, Somerset, Devon, and those predominantly in the South-West, just all sound the same to a Londoner. Farming, outdoor life, and a slow, relaxed attitude, have left the populations of those areas with a country drawl, which just screams ‘Farmer’ to a city person, without need for further clarification. Londoners call all these people ‘Carrot crunchers’, denoting a country lifestyle of working the land, and vegetables. This may sound insulting. It is not meant to be, it is merely identification.

Ireland has two main accents, to an outsider anyway. We are very familiar with them, as there are almost as many Irish living in mainland Britain, as there are in the whole of Ireland. There is the accent of the North; harsh, aggressive, bitter, and unyielding. Then the accent of the South, the Republic, tinged with humour, musical, and easy going. Hundreds of years of ‘The Troubles’ have made us all very familiar with both of these accents. They are so common in London, that you could almost call them an ‘honorary’ London Accent.

The Midlands, Birmingham, Coventry, and the large urban connurbations in those regions, have a strange, nasal accent, delivered with a whine. It is , I am sorry to say, unpleasant, and my least favourite accent, from anywhere. They also have some unique sayings, calling younger siblings ‘our kid’, for example. They are not pleasant sayings, and because of the nasal delivery, are not popular, and have not caught on anywhere else. Sorry Midlands, but you must know that it is true. The North-West also has two dominant accents, those of Liverpool, and the Manchester area. To a southerner, both are better unheard. The Liverpool accent  (popularised by The Beatles) is exceptionally whiny, with an aggressive tone, and use of regional phrases. It is very localised, and does not extend too far from the city limits, which for me, is a blessing. The Manchester accent is a mumble, delivered with aggression, and in a fast monotone fashion. It is such that a very young person might sound old, and the most pleasant person may appear to be extremely angry. There are other Northern accents, in Yorkshire, Cumbria, and Nottinghamshire, for example; but they all sound much the same, to anyone who is not from those parts.

Then there is London, and the South-East. For someone born there, the definitions are easy. I can even usually tell if someone is from East, or South London. Essex is easily detected, Kent less so, as it still sounds London. People in Surrey and Sussex tend to be better off, and speak better English, in the BBC style, as a consequence of their education, and job choices. Hampshire and Oxfordshire have their quota of ‘Farming’ accents, as well as the more cultured tones of the commuters, and middle-classes. Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire now have so many Londoners, fleeing North of the Capital to escape house prices there, that they are more-or-less Londoners too. There are many places, and other counties, that I have not bothered to mention. Just lump them in with the nearest big city, or regional town, and you can pretty much guess their accent too.

The truth is, that I have a London accent. I am proud of that fact, I embrace it, and would want no other. When Americans visit London, they used to often ask if I am Australian. To say that I find this insulting, would be a huge understatement. Even though I have a weakness for the aforementioned Geordie accent, the reality is that I find all other UK regional accents, except London, outdated, and difficult to listen to. Country people sound less intelligent than they might be, and Northerners just sound aggressive. The Scots, Irish, and and Welsh? They are just foreigners, no different than listening to someone from France, or Russia.

So, what is a British accent? Is it best portrayed by David Beckham, Robbie Williams, or Sean Connery? For my money, listen to Michael Caine. He’s got it just right…