Knives Out Analysis

The Changed character doesn’t become like the Steadfast. The Steadfast infuences the Storymind to change within the Changed Perspective.

I know Jim is changing the way that reads on Subtext because it’s misleading. No one “adopts the other’s POV”

Yes. She’s still motivated by Helping.

And remember that it’s not Harlan himself, it’s the perspective that Harlan (or the other ICs) represents. It’s the storymind that feels the change. That’s how it can work.

So the real question to ask is, at the end does it feel like the POV of trying to control things is now free? I would certainly say so.

Well, that’s assuming the Element of Control is correct, and then we’re circling again. Also, I don’t think you can just look at the Element level, or at least not by itself. My understanding is that the best place to see the big paradigm shift change is at the Be-er/Do-er level or at least the Domains.

But in any case the “the feeling of the POV trying to control things” is too abstract for me. How can we know who changed if we can’t describe the change in the character?

Here’s an explanation that is much simpler. First, let me posit that I disagree with you about the OS. I think the OS is pretty much what it appears to be: “Figuring out how Harlan was killed.”

Marta at the beginning of the movie is literally unable to lie, and the idea of her accepting the Thromby fortune is unthinkable. By the end of the movie, she lies (at exactly the right moment to resolve the OS and solve the “murder”) and accepts control of the fortune.

Will she be nice about it? Benoit thinks so, but what does he know? In any case, even if she is, that doesn’t change the big paradigm shift – as you said before, she learned to play the game (her way).

So then the OS is in Understanding or Learning?

While I’m at it @glennbecker here’s my argument for why she is a Be-er.

At the beginning of the movie we have a number of MC throughline examples where in the face of conflict she appears to try to solve her problems internally – like the scene where her sister is watching CSI. In the face of Thromby slights, she says nothing and adapts, or slips away to take a drink (change herself internally–adapt herself to her environment).

By the end of the movie, she is solving her personal problems externally – by taking control of the Thromby fortune.

No, it’s still Conceptualizing. Here are some gists:

Figuring Out How Things Fit Together;
figuring out a diabolical plan;
working out how to stop something ;
unraveling someone’s scheme

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So how does figuring out a plan create conflict, an inequity for everyone in the story?

I really feel like this is surface level stuff. It’s never just what it appears to be. The subject matter and the real source of inequity are rarely, if ever, the same.

Using “A Few Good Men” as an example, since we just solved that in the user group…

On the surface, it’s a courtroom drama. Putting the pieces together regarding the trial/case, figuring out how things fit together, unraveling someone’s scheme… all that stuff on the surface seems like what the movie is about.

But it’s not. At all. If Jim’s Subtext app name is to show us anything, it’s that we need to look below “what you see is what you get”

A Few Good Men’s OS is actually a problem of Mind > Conscious > Doubt > Reduction

None of the gists for that look like “solving a case” because solving a case isn’t creating the inequity. Something within the context of that is causing the inequity. This problem of Reduction in Mind.

I really think Knives Out is the same.
How does solving the case create an inequity, especially for everyone?
The cops don’t care about solving the case, the family certainly doesn’t, Marta is somewhat wrapped up in it, Benoit is intent on it, and Ransom. Fran doesn’t care. Frank Oz doesn’t care.

The thing that creates an inequity for everyone is not the solving of the case.

Conceptualizing (scheming) creates conflicts for everyone. As regards the specific Story Goal (the investigation) all of the OS characters is concerned with it in a different way. Benoit is pursuing it of course, Ransom is avoid/preventing it, etc.

How? What is the inequity created by that for everyone?

If Ransom hadn’t come up with a scheme to kill Harlan, there would be no story. And for that matter, if Harlan hadn’t come up with a scheme to save Marta, he wouldn’t have killed himself (and there would be no story). Irony upon irony, scheme upon scheme.

Each of the OS characters is either investigating the scheme or is a suspect. The family tries to blackmail Marta. Etc. etc.

So you think the OS is Becoming. What is the initial inequity in the story (that is tied to Becoming?) What’s the Story Goal? Who is pursuing that Goal? Who is avoiding it?

Point taken–though I’m not surprised that A Few Good Men is in Mind – it’s been years since I saw it, but that whole “You can’t handle the truth!” sounds very Mind. And this isn’t the first courtroom drama in Mind. So I don’t even know if that’s a good example.

That said, look at most of the analyses and you can usually sort by genre. Superhero movies are almost always in Physics/Obtaining or Doing. Etc. Psychological thrillers are, eight or nine times out of ten, Conceptualizing.

It’s possible you’re right and I’ve gotten myself all turned around! I’ll be interested to hear what Jim has to say.

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At this point, I’m convinced we’re somehow both completely wrong and Jim is going to have a brilliant solution.


I had pegged that the Initial Driver is when Harlan decides to write them all out of the will, forcing Ransom to switch his meds.

First Driver would then be when they deliberate about what to do about the OD, forcing Harlan to kill himself.

Midpoint is… maybe… Benoit decides to rope Marta in as his Watson, forcing Marta to comply and stick around. {edited this after some thought}

Second Plot point would be when it’s decided that Marta gets the inheritance, forcing Marta to flee with Ransom.

Concluding driver would be when Marta decides to permanently change the family dynamic by keeping the house.

I found something from the script that (from what I can tell) tracks Harlan’s change, which I picked up watching it, but didn’t know if I was just projecting onto it…

Benchmark of what I pegged as Progress for IC Harlan.

Pg. 25
Marta sits alone, across from a portrait of Harlan. Muffled voices out on the patio. Cigar smoke drifts by outside.

Pg. 48
HARLAN THROMBEY - his portrait, with an ambiguous look on
his face.
Marta. Soda water in hand at the reception that night.
Staring shell shocked at Harlan.

Pg. 52
Over Walt’s shoulder, Marta sees Harlan’s portrait again.
Has its expression changed? It looks like it has a slight
conspiratorial smile. Marta breathes - maybe this is all
going to be ok.

Pg. 125
Marta shuffles to the front doorway. One last glance at
Harlan’s portrait, its grin now gentle and content.

I agree with everyone.

I think it’s Changed/Be-er/Action like @Lakis, and I also think, like @JohnDusenberry, that Jim is going to come in with an out-of-the-box, left-field creative storyform that we’re all going to look at and go ‘Goddamnit, that’s it.’

I still have a very unusual feeling that the storyform is in the upper right quads (Being/Preconscious/Progress/Doing), but I need to formulate an argument for that.


How is this not “they discover he’s been poisoned” (Action) which forces the deliberation?

This make sense as a driver, but again how is this a decision? Where is the deliberation here?

So where do you put that whole climactic scene where she lies to Ransom and he confesses and tries to kill her? That seems pretty important…

Because if it were that way, the deliberation isn’t the part that pushes us into the next signpost. The turn happens when he actually kills himself.

It’s literally a decision that Benoit makes, which forces action.

It is important, but i don’t see it as a driver. Ransom’s confession, finding out it was really him doesn’t end the overall story. It ends when Marta decides to keep the inheritance.

No one is concerned with “who killed Harlan” in the story, nor are they concerned with “how he died” … not even Benoit. What Benoit is trying to figure out is who hired him, and the general feeling that something is afoot.

Benoits investigation… Think about what he focuses on, and what that reveals to us as the audience. It’s not so much “where were you on the night of…” it’s more about “what was the dynamic between you and Harlan, or you and the rest of the family?”
He’s exposing the family dynamic (which they lie about and try to control), so we learn where things sat with everyone. This is one of the main reasons I don’t see this film as being akin to “Clue” … because the investigator isn’t pressing them thinking any of them murdered Harlan.
And again, that concern is really ONLY Benoits concern. Something being afoot doesn’t even phase the family until suddenly their inheritance is taken away and something being afoot could help them arrange the family dynamic.

Correct me if I’m misrepresenting you, John.

I would imagine you’re positioning Harlan/Marta as protagonist and Ransom as antagonist around the goal of Changing the family dynamic.

If that’s the case, how is reacting to the poisoning what starts the story? If its about the family dynamic changing, wouldn’t it be a decision about the family or the will?

How does Marta keeping the money settle the inequity created by deliberating about the poisoning?

Well, I’m not so much even thinking of Protagonist/Antagonist. I’m not even sure there is a clear one in the movie.

I’m just thinking more of the four perspectives and how they influence the story mind.

I’m thinking less about the subject matter of the movie, and more about what Rian was communicating to us.

I don’t think reacting to the poisoning is the start of the movie. I think taking action after Harlan decides to change the will is the thing that starts the movie.

If Harlan hadn’t decided to change his will, Ransom would’ve never switched the meds. Marta and Harlan would’ve never been in the predicament of the overdose… and on and on it goes.

But yes, I think the goal is about becoming.

I’ve been doing the Mentorship with Jim, and we covered Becoming stories… and to summarize, this is where we landed on the general feel and common elements.

Even when it’s more serious subject matter, there’s a sort of playfulness to these movies. Usually a principal character who is overtly snarky/ sarcastic. A lot of banter. Stakes always seem to be about family connections at risk.

We looked at films like:

  • All About Eve
  • The Santa Clause
  • Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman
  • Pretty Woman

Films where things are basically in constant flux, things changing were central to the themes. Fundamental changes like… someone dying, changing of a family, changing one’s nature, losing a job, gaining a new job, etc. etc.

And we found that this theme trickles down into every little aspect of the movie too. People leave for good one moment, then show back up the next. Things are one way one moment, then change on a dime the next.

So when I watched Knives Out, that’s mostly what I saw:

  • Changing the will
  • Changing the meds
  • Calling the police, then NOT calling the police
  • Leaving the house, then coming back to the house
  • Changing clothes, going up the stairs then down the stairs
  • Interviews done, Interviews reopened
  • Benoit leaving, Benoit staying
  • Marta off the hook, Marta hired as his Watson…

and on and on it goes…
Not that these are the sources of conflict (some are) but they’re common thematic elements that appear throughout Becoming movies.

I’m not disputing Becoming as a goal. I just want to understand your driver argument. :slight_smile:

Again, correct me if I’m misrepresenting you here.

Initial Driver: Harlan decides to cut the family out of the will, which forces Ransom to switch his meds?

Yeah, and I think that’s illustrated by the dialogue of that scene when Harlan tells Ransom that he’s decided to give it all to Marta, and Ransom leaves in a huff with “I’m warning you!” because he’s about to take action against him.

It’s the decision to give it to Marta that drives Ransom to switch the meds.

Okay, cool.

Next Driver: Harlan deliberates about how to cover up the poisoning, forcing him to kill himself?

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