Point, Blanc: 'Glass Onion' brings together a big cast to solve another murder : Pop Culture Happy Hour What has a murder mystery, a big cast of stars, some amazing fashion, and the deep blue waters of Greece? The eagerly awaited Glass Onion, the follow-up to the 2019 Oscar-nominated comedy Knives Out. Daniel Craig returns as brilliant detective Benoit Blanc and this time, he's trying to solve a murder that involves a tech billionaire and his glamorous but sketchy friends.

Point, Blanc: 'Glass Onion' brings together a big cast to solve another murder

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(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LINDA HOLMES, HOST:

What has a murder mystery, a big cast of stars, some amazing fashion and the deep blue waters of Greece? The eagerly awaited "Glass Onion," the follow-up to the 2019 Oscar-nominated comedy "Knives Out."

STEPHEN THOMPSON, HOST:

Daniel Craig returns as brilliant detective Benoit Blanc, and this time he's trying to solve a murder that involves a tech billionaire and his glamorous but sketchy friends. I'm Stephen Thompson.

HOLMES: And I'm Linda Holmes. And today we're talking about "Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery" on POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. Joining us today is Margaret H. Willison, communications manager of Not Sorry Productions. Hey, Margaret.

MARGARET H WILLISON: Hi, you guys.

HOLMES: And also with us is Christina Tucker, co-host of the podcast "Wait, Is This A Date?" Welcome back, Christina.

CHRISTINA TUCKER: What up, buds?

HOLMES: I'm so happy to have you both here with us. It is always a good time.

So in "Glass Onion," Miles Bron is a tech billionaire played by Edward Norton. He invites his friends for their annual reunion on his private island. But this time, he says, they will be playing a murder mystery game all weekend. His friends include Claire, the governor of Connecticut, played by Kathryn Hahn; Lionel, a scientist played by Leslie Odom Jr.; Birdie Jay, a model and party girl played by Kate Hudson; and Duke, a streamer played by Dave Bautista. Also present is the mysterious Andi, Miles' former business partner, played by Janelle Monae. Benoit Blanc, played by Daniel Craig, finds himself also invited for the weekend to bring some extra realness to the mystery game. There are a bunch of cameos I will not spoil, but suffice it to say, you will see even more familiar faces than all this. "Glass Onion" is written and directed by Rian Johnson, who also wrote and directed "Knives Out." It's in theaters for a week, starting today, and it will arrive on Netflix on December 23.

So what we're going to do with this movie is divide our discussion into two episodes, all right? Are you with me? This one will be focused on our general impressions. It will not have spoilers beyond the very, you know, loose and general premise that we've discussed. Once the movie drops on Netflix in December, we'll have another episode at that later date that will dig into the answers to the "Glass Onion" mystery and give absolutely everything away. Let us jump directly into our general impressions. Margaret, what did you think about "Glass Onion?"

WILLISON: I can't believe that Rian Johnson. I mean, I can because I love him, but I'm so proud of him for pulling it off and making a second movie that I like just as much as the first movie. What a triumph for original intellectual property.

HOLMES: That is true. That is true. Christina, how about you? What did you think?

TUCKER: Yeah. You know, going in, I was worried. You know, I had such a blast at the first one. It was so unexpected. And I was like, is this magic going to be recapturable? And, look, I'll say it. A Netflix original makes me a little concerned kind of all the time, but he nailed it. I had such a good time. And he continues to, like, just excel at nailing that kind of, like, innate selfishness of the wealthy and well-connected. And, you know, while I had, like, a vague idea of where the plot was heading, it was still really fun watching it unravel. And that's all I want from a murder mystery.

HOLMES: Yeah, I agree. Thompson, What about you?

THOMPSON: Well, I hate to throw cold water on you guys by agreeing with you completely.

WILLISON: Oh, my God, a twist.

TUCKER: Hard to hear. Hard to hear.

THOMPSON: I know. I know. Just truth bombs left and right. I just had a blast. I sat there grinning my face off. There's an early scene in this film where we're meeting these different characters as they're attempting to unlock a puzzle box that has been sent to them by the mysterious tech billionaire played by Edward Norton. And I just could have watched this silly gadget kind of unfurl. I could have watched two hours of them solving this little puzzle. You're learning a little bit about each character as they're doing this. And I'm just sitting there like, hook this movie to my veins. I just had a blast. I think if you can see it in the theater, if you're comfortable seeing it in the theater, see in the theater. But also, if you're with your family around the holidays, what could be better as, like, an - the whole family gathers around for a cozy, zazzy (ph) mystery?

HOLMES: Right.

THOMPSON: You know, just what could be better? It's so fun. I think it slows down a little bit in its second half, would be - kind of be my only real quibble with it, but I just found it a joy.

HOLMES: Yeah. You know, the original "Knives Out" is one of my favorite movies of the last probably 10 years. It is one of my most rewatched movies. I think it's hard to say yet whether I will rewatch this one quite as much, but that is just because, like, the first one, to me, is impeccably crafted and structured in a way that - now I sort of know this is what he does. So I was a little bit more prepared for it because, to me, the structural innovation, the formal innovation of these movies - that, I think, is so cool. The general setup is Agatha Christie, but he's talked about getting part of it from "Columbo," which is don't just do the whole mystery, mystery, mystery, mystery, mystery, and then everything gets dumped on you at the end, right?

THOMPSON: Right.

TUCKER: Yeah.

HOLMES: He manages to do a great, you know, final, find out what happens, the detective brings everyone in. If you've seen "Knives Out," you know that happens. But along the way, he gives substantial new information so that it's not a single thread of, like, go along, go along, and then you reach the end, and you find out all the stuff that you haven't been told. And the same thing happens in this film. You get some significant new information along the way. And I think the really clever thing is how he's managed to repeat some of the advantages of that structure because that, to me, is what really - when I think about the impeccable crafting of the "Knives Out" script, that's a lot of what I'm talking about, where you suddenly kind of get that center portion. It puts everything in a different light, but then you still have more new questions. And the same thing essentially happens here.

I also just have to give, I think, a nod to the fact that I think these things are also impeccable just in the execution of them. There is so much just good, solid, incredibly tight filmmaking, I would call it. A movie like this - and again, once you have seen it and - or had it spoiled for you, it makes more sense. But Bob Ducsay, who's been his editor since "Looper," he's responsible for editing this kind of sprawling story in exactly the right way. Costume designer Jenny Eagan does some costumes.

TUCKER: I was going to say, can we have a moment for the jumpsuits?

HOLMES: Particularly some of the Benoit Blanc costumes are so cool and funny.

TUCKER: The little linen kind of sailor suit.

HOLMES: And ultimately, they're plot-relevant in a way that I don't really want to give too much away about.

WILLISON: Yeah.

HOLMES: Rick Heinrichs, who was the production designer of "The Last Jedi," is the production designer here. The composer is always Nathan Johnson, his cousin. And I think you just have to appreciate the - just the craft of these films because this is a gorgeous, gorgeous movie. The setting is beautiful. This house, that is the Edward Norton character's house, is gigantic and strange. And, I don't know, Christina, you were chiming in about the clothes, as well.

TUCKER: Yeah, I think both on the clothes and the setting of the place, like, you know, this is a super wealthy person's house. So, yes, theoretically this is a very nice house. But at the same time, the more you look at it, you're like, this is one of the ugliest things I have ever seen in my own personal life.

WILLISON: (Laughter).

TUCKER: Why is this like this? And I think with the costumes, everyone is just so gorgeously, sumptuously dressed for this island setting. And it just - it made me want to get on a ding-dang (ph) yacht and head directly to the nearest island, which I, like - get me a jumpsuit. Let's go, guys.

WILLISON: All of the costumes that Janelle Monae wears as Andi Brand are just so visually delightful. But what I really love is that, like, so much of the stuff that's just fun - like the costumes, like the joke writing - is also always doing, like, really, really strong character work. When Kate Hudson's Birdie rolls up to the dock of the yacht in this just stunning jumpsuit, giant hat. She's wearing, like, a gold mesh "mask," quote-unquote, right?

TUCKER: Yeah. It's, like, bedazzled.

THOMPSON: It looks like what you'd wrap oranges in.

WILLISON: Exactly. It's like a gilded version of what you wrap oranges in. And that moment and how she takes it off, you're just like, oh, wow. I've just learned so much about who this woman is. You can have similar things where it's like, you know, Kathryn Hahn just showing up looking schlumpy (ph) carrying tote bags like...

THOMPSON: A TED Radio Hour tote bag (laughter).

TUCKER: Yeah, TED Radio Hour. There was a knowing snicker in my screening, I'll say (laughter).

HOLMES: There was a knowing snicker in ours, too.

WILLISON: Not since Rachel McAdams holding an NPR tote bag in "The Family Stone" has a character note been so perfectly applied and so appreciated. And I'm a huge, huge whodunit person. Like, I've read so many Agatha Christies that I'm never going to read them all because I keep picking up ones I've read before, thinking I haven't read them and I'm really smart and I guess the ending. So I'm picky about mystery construction. And these ones do such a good job of surprising me. You feel like you've absolutely been fair play, right? Like every bit of the information that ultimately gets revealed, like, you were given it clearly. And, like, if you're paying attention, like, you do feel like you could have put the whole thing together.

TUCKER: And it makes it so fun on a rewatch, too, 'cause then you get to go - like, immediately, I was like, I can't wait to watch this again and, like - you know, with my friends who haven't seen it and be like, ah. I'm seeing what's happening now, putting it all together. Like, to be smug and have a good time in a theater?

WILLISON: Absolutely.

TUCKER: Come on. Two of my favorite feelings.

WILLISON: (Laughter) Who can ask for a better thing?

THOMPSON: But it's also very deftly employing MacGuffins. It occasionally has a couple of, like, just straight-up red herrings that add so much. I also - God, if you just said on paper, this movie has a bunch of jokes about, one, the pandemic and, two, self-styled internet disruptors, I'd be like, oh, that's going to be too broad.

WILLISON: Yeah (laughter).

THOMPSON: And it has a ton of jokes about the pandemic.

HOLMES: Yeah.

THOMPSON: And a ton of jokes about internet disruptors, and they're all hilarious.

WILLISON: (Laughter).

THOMPSON: There's even just, like, a great just total throwaway thing where, as we're meeting Birdie Jay, played by Kate Hudson, she's at a party with, like, clearly, like, 75 other people. And she's like, oh, it's OK. I'm in my pod.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: One of the things I love about "Knives Out" is that he gets such a wonderful set of performances from people.

THOMPSON: Yeah.

HOLMES: And I think he, once again, gets a really wonderful set of performances from people. And in some cases, they are people who are really doing something a little bit different. Particularly, Leslie Odom Jr., as a scientist, is bringing different kind of shadings to his personality and his delivery than he's most often done.

THOMPSON: Yeah.

HOLMES: Some of them are people who are doing kind of a bigger spin on what they've done, which is sort of Kate Hudson doing this, like, very beachy party girl. Like, that is very Kate Hudson but it's also, like, a funny spin on Kate Hudson's kind of persona.

WILLISON: Yeah.

HOLMES: And this is a really funny, kind of unserious Edward Norton that I appreciated very much. I like this use of Dave Bautista.

WILLISON: Oh, perfect casting.

HOLMES: He always is Dave Bautista in a certain way, but I think it gives him interesting things to do. And can I just say the movie starness (ph) of Janelle Monae?

THOMPSON: Oh, my gosh.

HOLMES: Even though we sort of already knew about it from other things, just the sheer luminous movie starness of Janelle Monae is - I just - it's staggering.

WILLISON: I can't say enough about how much I love Daniel Craig's performances in these movies. And just, like, I had no idea Daniel Craig had this in him. And he's so funny and he's so goofy without ever feeling like it's a bit.

TUCKER: Yeah.

WILLISON: But there's also just, like, real, sincere emotional connection that's occurring in this. You know, you see it in the first movie between him and Ana de Armas' character, and you see it in this one between him and I'm not going to say who. It deepens the emotional impact of the movie in, like, such an awesome, useful way. And it's so much fun. We meet him - he's sitting in a bath and just, like, depressed, pandemic Benoit Blanc. It's just - I didn't know I needed to see it, but I needed to see it.

TUCKER: Yeah.

HOLMES: It is so vibrant in this way. It just feels, all the time, like everyone's having an awesome time. And I love the fact - you know, Stephen mentioned MacGuffins. I do love the fact that there are certain things where you're really invited to be like, oh, that's going to come back later. Like, oh, that's going to come back later.

THOMPSON: Absolutely.

WILLISON: I feel like these movies are so impressive because they're always just going right up to the line of being too much.

TUCKER: Yep.

WILLISON: Too cute, too many cameos, too many MacGuffins, too many twists. But it's the maximum allowable amount of everything fun it possibly could be without tipping over into being too much of any of it. That was very much my feeling. And the mastery with which he does that - it's like in the very first scene, when they're going through these puzzle boxes. Again, the character work is incredible. When you're meeting Dave Bautista's, like, Joe Rogan-esque YouTube streaming figure, he's doing a video about how he, in Jimmy Kimmel, claims he hates boobs, but he loves boobs. He just hates the boobification (ph) of America. And his girlfriend is called into the video. And he's like, babe, how do you feel about your boobs? She's like, I love my boobs.

THOMPSON: (Laughter).

WILLISON: Sorry, you feminists. And then he goes, sorry, feminists. And then she walks off.

HOLMES: (Laughter).

WILLISON: And it's, like, so short, so punchy, like...

TUCKER: Yeah.

WILLISON: ...Rian Johnson knows just the, like, tiny twitch to turn it up and nail it so that it's clearly goofy but not preposterous. And I have so much respect for it.

TUCKER: Yeah, that was my first take upon exiting and texting friends who I knew had already seen it. I said, wow, he came so close to gilding the lily with those cameos, but he managed to just - it's like, if I see one more, sir, you're going to be on some sort of watch list. But nope. He said, I'm good.

(LAUGHTER)

TUCKER: That's all I'm doing. I'm dropping it, and we're walking away. It's such an impressive thing to do, I feel. I feel like it's so challenging to know exactly what is enough and exactly when to say, all right, all right, we're backing off, we're backing off.

HOLMES: Yep. Absolutely agree. Could not agree more. All right. Well, once you have a chance to see "Glass Onion," tell us what you think. Find us at facebook.com/pchh. Up next - what's making us happy this week?

All right, now it's time for our favorite segment of this week and every week - what's making us happy this week? Christina, what is making you happy this week?

TUCKER: This week is - what is making me happy is, if you can believe it, a romance novel. I know.

WILLISON: What (laughter)?

TUCKER: You're shocked. Pause.

HOLMES: No way.

TUCKER: I know. Ashley Herring Blake's "Astrid Parker Doesn't Fall" (ph), which is her follow up to "Delilah Green Doesn't Care," is out, as you're listening to it, as of yesterday. Astrid is a high-strung, high-maintenance interior designer who has to renovate - wait for it - a beloved inn...

HOLMES: Sure.

TUCKER: ...In her hometown of Bright Falls.

HOLMES: (Laughter).

TUCKER: And she is - has a failed engagement that she's trying to ignore and a business that's struggling. So she's thrilled to have a new project to focus on. But what she is not thrilled about - working with the lead carpenter, Jordan Everwood, or is she? Who can say?

WILLISON: (Laughter).

HOLMES: Who can say?

TUCKER: It is delightful and it's perfect - you know, a Thanksgiving vacation read. I should say Ashley is a pal. But you know what? The book's a dream anyway. And sometimes books and friends doing well can make you happy. And that's what's making me happy.

HOLMES: Ah, there you go. There you go. All right. Thank you very much, Christina Tucker.

Margaret H. Willison, what is making you happy this week?

WILLISON: What is making me happy this week is an app called Music League. So during the pandemic, I was doing this thing. I would throw prompts out on my Instagram where I'd be like, you know, tell me a song that, like, you wish had been written about you. And people would write in with their answers, and I would share them and we'd have this great conversation. And then, arduously, I would put, like, hundreds of song suggestions into a Spotify playlist.

And recently, a friend of mine introduced me to this app, and it's basically the same premise. You invite a bunch of friends to play with you. Whoever is running the league sets the prompt, people submit, and - this is the magic part - the app makes the playlist for you. Everybody gets to share it. You listen to it. You don't know whose songs are whose, and you get to vote for the ones you like best. And then, at the end of voting, you get to find out who submitted what. And - best part - you get to read everybody's comments on all of the different songs. I just can't recommend it highly enough. So Music League - check it out.

HOLMES: All right. Thank you very much, Margaret Willison.

Stephen Thompson, what is making you happy this week?

THOMPSON: Well, what is making me happy this week is an album that I have been just swimming in for the last couple of weeks. Came out earlier this year - it's called "Preacher's Daughter" by a singer named Ethel Cain. And Ethel Cain is this very, very ambitious singer-songwriter who, on first listen, that you think, oh, it's Lana Del Rey. It's dark. It's dramatic. It's kind of doomy and ethereal and deadpan and everything. But then this record gets weird. This album is more than 75 minutes long, and it is full of epics. It's so sweeping and grand and strange that if you have 75 minutes to set aside for an album, I really recommend sitting with it. Let's hear - actually hear a little bit of one of the singles from the record, which is not 75 minutes long. Let's hear a little bit of "American Teenager."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICAN TEENAGER")

ETHEL CAIN: (Singing) Grew up under yellow light on the street, putting too much faith in the make believe. Another high-school football team.

THOMPSON: So that's "Preacher's Daughter" from Ethel Cain. It is one of my favorite albums of 2022, and I hope people spend time with it.

HOLMES: All right. Thank you very much, Stephen Thompson. All right.

What is making me happy this week? "Smitten Kitchen Keepers," baby.

(LAUGHTER)

HOLMES: "Smitten Kitchen Keepers" is the latest cookbook out of the Smitten Kitchen enterprise run by Deb Perelman. I don't know how to describe it other than, like, it is good recipes delivered with low drama.

THOMPSON: That's right.

HOLMES: The way she writes, it's always just kind of like, here's the recipe. You could also do this. You could also do this. You could try this. And yet, the recipes are, like, perfect. And they always come out well for me. This is not from this new book, "Smitten Kitchen Keepers," but her recipe for pumpkin bread is kind of the leading, most awesome recipe in the world for pumpkin bread, I feel. Definitely recommend it. It is designed to use a whole can of pumpkin and exactly a whole can of pumpkin.

THOMPSON: And exactly that much.

HOLMES: Because so many recipes for pumpkin baking things are, like, a cup of pumpkin. And then you wind up with, like, a third of a can of pumpkin. And what are you going to do with that?

WILLISON: (Laughter).

HOLMES: But she thinks in a pragmatic way about what it's like to be a person who has a kitchen. And so that is my favorite thing - "Smitten Kitchen Keepers," which I am learning to cook things out of. That is what is making me happy. And if you want links for what we recommended, plus some more recommendations, sign up for our newsletter at npr.org/popculturenewsletter.

That brings us to the end of our show. Margaret H. Willison, Christina Tucker, Stephen Thompson, thanks to all of you for being here.

THOMPSON: Thank you.

WILLISON: Thanks, Linda.

TUCKER: Thank you, buds.

HOLMES: This episode was produced by Hafsa Fathima and edited by Jessica Reedy. And Hello Come In provides our theme music. Thank you for listening to POP CULTURE HAPPY HOUR from NPR. I'm Linda Holmes, and we'll see you all tomorrow.

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