19.7 C
Wednesday, September 27, 2023
HomeEntertainment'A Haunting in Venice' Review: Michelle Yeoh and Tina Fey Join Kenneth...

‘A Haunting in Venice’ Review: Michelle Yeoh and Tina Fey Join Kenneth Branagh in His Snoozy Agatha Christie Adaptation


Like Agatha Christie herself, Kenneth Branagh found a reliable formula for mysteries. In his two previous film adaptations of Christie novels, he directed and played the cerebral detective Hercule Poirot among an all-star cast, in an exotic location with at least one murderer at large. Murder on the Orient Express (2017), starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Johnny Depp, had an enjoyable retro, over-the-top style. Death on the Nile (2022) was a little less starry and distracting.

Now A ghost tour in Venice determines a clear pattern of diminishing returns. The new film is much more playful in pace, with duller characters. Despite some high points, including Branagh in top form as an even more somber than usual Poirot, the film is watchable but also has something deadly for a mystery: uninvolving.

A ghost tour in Venice

It comes down to

The least of the Branagh Poirots.

Date of publication: Friday September 15
Form: Kenneth Branagh, Michelle Yeoh, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, Kelly Reilly, Jude Hill, Kyle Allen, Riccardo Scamarcio
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Author: Michael Green

Rated PG-13, 1 hour and 43 minutes

Set in 1947, the story is very loosely based on a lesser-known late-career Christie novel, Halloween party (1969), altering the plot, altering existing characters and adding new ones. And it shifts the location from Christie’s English country house to Venice, where Poirot has retreated and is strolling in his roof garden. His old girlfriend, the mystery writer Ariadne Oliver, arrives, played briskly by Tina Fey in 1940s American style, as if channeling Rosalind Russell in His girl Friday. Ariadne tricks Poirot into coming to a Halloween séance at a supposedly haunted palazzo, to unmask a clairvoyant she is sure is a charlatan. Michelle Yeoh, always a joy to watch, plays the medium and at one point is spun wildly like a man possessed. But lower your expectations: she plays a much smaller role than the trailer suggests.

Also lower your expectations for Venice. The change of location should have worked fine and fit the formula perfectly. The film opens with promising, crooked corners of the city, and at the end there are some outdoor scenes. But most of it takes place in the gloomy palazzo, more clichéd than creepy, with shadowy stairs inside and a canal outside, conveniently located for drowning. The interiors are actually a set at Pinewood Studios, with a production design of dull colors, shot with a muddy look.

The palazzo, once an orphanage, is owned by a famous opera singer, Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly, far from her role as Beth in Yellowstone). She wants the medium to contact her daughter, who was so heartbroken when her fiancé disapproved of her that she jumped into the canal. The screenplay by Michael Green, who also wrote the previous Branagh Poirots, creates a merely serviceable plot and mystery around this idea. The legend that the palazzo is haunted by the ghosts of children trapped and left to die centuries ago is more of a nod to ghost stories than a recurring theme. The question of whether Poirot could abandon logic and be convinced that ghosts exist is half-heartedly raised.

In typical Christie mode, the suspects converge, including the scheming ex-fiancée (Kyle Allen) and Poirot’s Italian bodyguard (Riccardo Scamarcio). Jamie Dornan, who played the father in Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film Belfast, plays a doctor with PTSD, and Jude Hill, the child who played the young Branagh character there, is his precocious son here. Hill is a real talent, a vibrant screen presence. And Camille Cottin (Call my agent) brings fierce conviction to the role of Rowena’s housekeeper, who used to be a nun. Cottin stands out because so many in the large cast seem to sleepwalk through it.

Not so for Branagh, who always fit Poirot’s hammy character perfectly. In each of his Christie films, Branagh brings depth and backstory to the person behind the mustache, with his dark view of humanity. In Venice he seems more than ever a moving, lonely figure.

But character depth isn’t the point in this mystery. Of course, Poirot eventually says, “No one will leave until I find who killed her!” and later describes exactly who and what caused several deaths. However, his revelations are not particularly surprising. As any mystery fan knows, the supposedly least likely suspect is often the killer, and the unexciting one Spooky in Venice does little to undermine that suspicion.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

Latest stories