While on vacation at a resort hotel in the West Indies, Miss Marple correctly suspects that the apparently natural death of a retired British major is actually the work of a murderer planning yet another killing.
A friend of Miss Marple's sees a woman being strangled in a passing train. When police cannot find a body and doubt the story, Miss Marple enlists professional housekeeper, Lucy Eyelesbarrow, to go undercover.
Her old friend Maude Calthrop, wife of the village vicar, summons Miss Marple when several of the local residents receive a poison pen letter. All of the recipients thus far are men and all are accused of some act of moral turpitude. When the local solicitor's wife, Angela Symington, is found dead with a poison pen letter at her side, the coroner rules that she took her own life. Not surprisingly, Jane Marple disagrees and is convinced it was murder. When a second villager is killed, it appears Miss Marple is correct. She also deduces the real purpose of the letters. Written by
Disappointing adaptation takes all the mystery out of the story.
I love Agatha Christie. I've read most of her books several times, and "The Moving Finger" is one of my favorites. Each time I open it, I am captivated anew by the adorable English-village setting and the delightful relationship between witty Jerry and his spunky sister Joanna. As I continue reading, I am drawn in further by the rich cast of unique characters and a host of clues. Even though I know who committed the murder -- and it IS a bit obvious in retrospect -- I always enjoy trying to spot all the clues and remember how they fit together.
Unfortunately, this adaptation really doesn't live up to the book. To be blunt, it's boring.
First, I found the acting wooden. None of the characters seem to believe that they live in a village terrorized by anonymous letters and brutal murders. For example, at the end, the murderer's former employee/confidante explains that she needs to leave the village. Instead of seeming shocked and saddened, she positively beams! The placid music and bland lighting add to the absurdly calm atmosphere.
The book features two romances. In both cases, the man and woman start off friends, then have some misunderstandings. All four people experience painful self-discovery: For example, pampered city girl Joanna must decide if she has what it takes to be a rural doctor's assistant. Christie understands how to craft a believable (and interesting!) courtship story. In contrast, in the movie, both couples fall in love almost at first sight (although the understated acting does not convey a lot of passion), and both romances run a smooth, uneventful course.
Miss Marple actually plays a minor role in the book. However, the whole point of film adaptations is to bring beloved characters to life! Viewers want and expect to see Miss Marple blinking her china-blue eyes, fussing with her fluffy white knitting, and reminiscing about trivial events in her village 50 years ago. Sadly, in this adaptation, Miss Marple gets very little screen time, and her character is not developed beyond "old woman." I don't think this adaptation would inspire a new viewer to love Miss Marple and read more about her.
Finally, and most importantly, this adaptation eliminates most of the MYSTERY. Miss Marple's limited screen time allows her to mention the key points of the case, but not to display her deduction process. The script leaves out most of the clues from the book, so the viewer has no real chance to solve the puzzle. (And isn't that the fun of it?) When the solution is presented, there's no thrill of discovery. Miss Marple explains in about two lines because she has so few clues to fit together.
All in all, watching this adaptation felt like reading Cliffs Notes. I got the basic gist of the plot, but I missed out on the pleasure of the setting, characters, and mystery.
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