While traveling on a train to London, Miss Marple is told by a woman she has never met, Lavinia Pinkerton, that she is certain there have been two murders in her village of Wychwood. When Lavinia dies in what is purported to be an accident - she fell, or was pushed, down the escalator in a tube station - Miss Marple decides to visit Wychwood and see what she can find. As Miss Marple is apt to say, one English village is like another and Wychwood has its secrets like any other. The first woman to die was Florie Gibbs who, despite being experienced in such things, supposedly ate poison mushrooms she picked herself. The second was the local vicar who failed to wear his mask when using poison near his beehives. The third is a young woman who, it is said, accidentally drank hat dye instead of her cough medicine. Miss Marple finds a clue that points to a motive with origins many years before and a secret someone will do anything, including murder, to keep hidden.Written by
It may well be an anathema to Christie fans but this is an OK entry in the ITV Marple film series
Taking a train journey to London, Miss Marple finds herself sitting opposite a woman (Lavinia Pinkerton) who appears to be babbling somewhat about a suspicious death and her fear that she will be next. When Pinkerton "falls" to her death at the train station, Miss Marple decides to take a closer look and travels to Wychwood to investigate further. What she finds are several "accidental" deaths, neither of which totally ring true with Miss Marple and, with her experience in village life, she knows there must be secrets below the idyllic surface of this leafy English village.
As is often the case the reviews of this film are mostly negative and almost all make the focus of their criticism the fact that the film is a hack job of the book. I can totally understand why those that love the books feel this way and, yes, as an adaptation then it is probably "bad" but most viewers will be coming to this Sunday night ITV stuff as a film in its own right so, again, I find it easier to judge it on its own merit. As such Murder is Easy is "OK" stuff. The numbers of deaths in the narrative mean that the viewer is never bored because the script never has to fill the time with substance when it has so many murders to deliver. This makes it feel engaging in a way that, to be honest, it really isn't. In terms of guessing the plot or picking up on things, forget it, this is one of those films where all is revealed at the end but it is helped by it being an engaging resolution when it comes. The script doesn't make the many characters particularly complex or layered but it does enough to make them interesting to the point where you pay attention to them.
The cast are not "starry" but there are plenty of faces that UK viewers will recognise (but may struggle to remember precisely why they do). In some of the previous Marple films this type of casting has meant camp performances and people hamming it up too much to try and meet some sort of "light entertainment fun" target that was being aimed for; with this film it works the way it should do, by avoiding the viewer being distracted by the presence of one clear "name" that is clearly going to be central in some way. Of course this ignores the central turn from McKenzie, who I continue to be distracted by because of how much Jim Broadbent and her appear to be one in the same. I found her better here than in Pocketful of Rye because she seemed to be a bit more involved in the mystery and be demonstrating a sharper mind in her own style. This makes her a better fit in the role but also has the downside for her of not making it a particularly memorable Marple because she is playing a pretty straight bat. The supporting cast are generally good with solid turns from Henderson, Lance, Cumberbatch, Speer, Haig and a few others. The only "camp" risk is avoided because Tim Brooke-Taylor is actually OK.
Murder is Easy isn't brilliant in any aspect but the film does enough to be considered a solid "Marple" film. Please note I'm not saying it is a good film if you floated it out to the general market, or that it is a good adaptation but just that, as an ITV Marple film on a darkening Sunday night, it worked reasonably well. Know what you're coming into and you'll be OK, expect anything more and you'll be disappointed.
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