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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

A Murder Is Announced (2005)

(aka: Marple: A Murder Is Announced)



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The Geraldine McEwan series of Miss Marple adaptations continues to fall far short of the mark. Marple's character continues to be glaringly superficial -- she shows anguish in one scene over the death of a friend, only for her smug spunk to return in the next. And the relentless musical score continues to clash with the narrative.

Worst of all, however, is that this is an utter failure of storytelling. The characters are not well established, and their relationships with each other are unclear. A crucial revelation at the end, which uncovers secret identities and agendas, should have more impact than it does, but because the characters are so ill-defined, each tedious revelation warrants no more than a shrug. Only the unmasking of the killer matters, and that, admittedly, works. But has the film properly set the groundwork for the killer's agenda? Not really -- it only truly sinks in after the fact. (And I speak as one already familiar with the story.)

Agatha Christie knew her characters. She knew what every one of them was doing in that house, where a murder occurs amidst a crowded household. I'm not convinced the movie does. The movie puts the characters in place simply because that is how the story goes. Muddying the waters is a modernization of several of the characters, leading to discordant societal anachronisms. Not only doesn't the film know who its characters are, it doesn't know where or when they lived.

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