Only Murders in the Building Explained: What’s Up With the Ending?

Seventy-five-year-old Charles-Hayden Savage (Steve Martin) is a former actor. Once he played the main role in the popular in the nineties detective television series Brazzos, but this became the pinnacle of his film career, because he was no longer offered other notable roles. During his glory days, Charles managed to buy an apartment on the tenth floor in the elite New York apartment complex “Arconia”, in which he currently resides.

Seventy-one-year-old Oliver Putnam (Martin Short) is a former Broadway director who has famous and sensational musicals to his credit, but after a series of failures, he lost his job. Oliver also has an apartment on the tenth floor in the same complex, but he is on the verge of bankruptcy due to serious financial difficulties, and he is facing eviction.

Twenty-nine-year-old Mabel Mora (Selena Gomez) temporarily resides in the same complex on the twelfth floor. This is her wealthy aunt’s apartment, and Mabel lives there during the refurbishment of the premises.

All three are avid fans of true crime podcasts.

One day, when the three of them were going to spend an exciting evening listening to the most popular podcast of Cinda Canning (Tina Fay) “It’s not good in Oklahoma”, a fire alarm sounded in the Arconia and all residents were ordered to leave the building.

Charles, Oliver and Mabel went to the nearest cafe, where they ended up at the same table and, thus, got to know each other. Upon returning to the building, they find out that a murder has taken place in the house. Well, more precisely, suicide – so the police think. The young guy Tim Kono (Julian Keehy), who lived in an apartment on the ninth floor, died.

However, Charles, Oliver and Mabel do not believe in the suicide of the young man – they met him that day in the elevator – and believe that something is wrong here. As a result, they decide to conduct an independent investigation and, of course, make their own podcast about it. Oliver, as having a lot of experience in various productions, becomes the director of the podcast.

***

Steve Martin and Martin Short became friends back in 1986 on the set of the famous comedy western “Three Amigos”. (The third amigo there was Chevy Chase, but Steve and Martin failed to make friends with him: Chevy Chase, as you know, has a very bad temper.) Steve and Martin have been friends all their lives: they then starred together in several more films, and also appeared together in several once in the famous show Saturday Night Live, and in 2018 they put on their own show “An evening that you will forget for the rest of your life”, and it was a success.

Steve Martin had the idea for this series for ten years. He pitched the idea to screenwriter John Hoffman, and together they wrote the script, where Hoffman included a story from his life that happened a year ago and made a very strong impression on him.

Steve Martin and John Hoffman pitched the project to Craig Erwich, senior vice president of Hulu, who was so excited about the idea that the series went into production immediately. (And, fast forward, it didn’t fail, because it’s already the most watched comedy series on Hulu.)

But before we talk about what they got out of it, we need to give some explanation. United Statesn viewers will not be very clear why the main characters are so worn with these detective podcasts. Because in United States, interest in podcasts (especially detective ones) is orders of magnitude lower than in the States. There are detective podcasts in United States, but the most popular of them have several thousand subscribers. Whereas in the States, popular detective podcasts can have several million subscribers!

Why are podcasts so popular in the States? The United States is a very reading country. Yes, yes, contrary to the ideas prevailing in United States about “well-read United Statesns” and “Americans who do not read books”, in reality everything is exactly the opposite, which is easy to see by comparing the circulation of the most popular books in United States and in the States, there is not even a difference order.

But reading books in the modern rhythm of life is not so easy, so the podcast format – audiobooks and programs – has become very popular in America. And the true crime podcast genre has exploded in popularity since the 2014 launch of Sarah Koening’s Serial podcast. Moreover, in the film, it is precisely this podcast that is hinted at: the main characters listen to the podcast of the recognized star of the genre Cinda Canning (played by Tina Fey) and then they meet with her.

So a certain obsession of the heroes with the podcast is quite understandable and quite understandable in American realities.

Now about how it’s done. And done just fine! Moreover, this series is being promoted gradually: its creators do not immediately open all the cards. The first two episodes look very nice, but they don’t seem to be presenting anything special to us: at first it seems that this trinity will now quickly solve the crime, and in further episodes they will take on the next ones.

But no! The entire first season, all ten episodes, they will reveal this murder of Tim Kono, and very interesting and unexpected details will emerge during the investigation, new suspects will also appear, and from a plot point of view, everything is more than exciting here.

This, of course, is not a detective as such. This is a parody of the detective genre, but the parody is not buffoonery: it is filmed with very mild humor and irony, and besides, the production style itself is “old school” in a good way. Such an ironic, but at the same time nostalgic look at the “warm tube” detective story.

Steve Martin (he is one of my favorite comedians) and Martin Short are incredibly good! Here, of course, the fact that they know and understand each other perfectly, and the fact that they played a lot together and are, as it were, tuned in to the same wave, works great: they play funny jokes on each other, while playing along with each other.

At the same time, their characters have the most interesting subtle psychological nuances. They are both single. Both of them at one time experienced a period of glory, which was later replaced by a period of oblivion, which, of course, greatly influenced their psyche. And this investigation for them, as well as the work on the podcast, is a means to get away from loneliness and from disappointment with how their life ended up.

The young heroine of Selena Gomez, Mabel, was introduced into this company, on the one hand, to somewhat balance the two nimble old men, and on the other hand, somehow acquaint them with the realities of the modern world, in which they are not very strong. There’s a gorgeous scene where Mabel teaches Charles and Oliver to compliment women: well, more specifically, she teaches them how these compliments should definitely NOT be done.

Some viewers say that Selena Gomez is not particularly suitable for this role: they say, she is very unemotional, somewhat closed and somehow lost against the background of two completely enchanting comedians. But I will never agree with this! She had just such a role: Mabel suffered a serious psychological trauma, she hides a lot of things and she is what she is – secretive and unemotional. And it is these properties of the character of the heroine that well set off the characters of Steve Martin and Martin Short. (Damn, how difficult it is with them: Steve Martin, Martin Short – you have to write names and surnames all the time so that readers do not get confused.)

And I liked the way Selena played: she was not at all lost against the background of the other two main characters and brought a certain healthy touch of criticality (in any working group there must be a critic) and rationality in their investigation.

I saw Selena in Woody Allen’s recent film A Rainy Day in New York, but she had a cameo role there. And here she managed to turn around, and I absolutely would not want to see some other actress in this role – she fit in perfectly here. (By the way, Selena Gomez is also a super-successful singer: many of her videos have from tens to hundreds of millions of views.)

Of the minor roles, Nathan Lane (one of my favorite actors), the already mentioned Tina Fay, Jane Lynch and Amy Ryan are very good.

Nathan Lane plays Teddy Dimas, Oliver’s old friend and patron. Dimas also lives in Arconia, has a chain of convenience stores, and Oliver persuades him to start sponsoring their podcast, which Teddy actively resists.

Amy Ryan plays a bassoonist named Jen, who also lives at the Arconia. Charles has an affair with her, he tries to introduce a girlfriend to their investigation group, but Oliver is afraid that this “Yoko Ono” will ruin their ensemble, just like the real Yoko ruined The Beatles, and there are many funny moments connected with this.

Amy Ryan is going to play the roles of such clowns: I remember her from the TV series “The Office”, where she had a very pretty role of Michael’s girlfriend. (By the way, in the same show, Michael’s other girlfriend, his boss, was called Jen, just like Amy Ryan’s character in “Murders in the same building.”) – flagrant miscasting.)

The wonderful Jane Lynch here plays a certain Suzz Pataki, she plays, as always, perfectly, but who she is and what she does in the series in general – I will not say so as not to spoil. (Of course, she killed Tim Kono, I knew you would guess, but I will ruthlessly make a hint in the form of a screenshot.)

Above, I already mentioned the “warm lamp” manner of shooting, and here it is manifested in everything: in the wonderful hand-drawn opening credits (be careful, they change in some way from series to series and give certain clues), in the way New York and the Arconia complex (this is, of course, a real, and famous building – the Belnord complex, which is located at 225 W 86th St in Manhattan), and how it is generally put.

Plus, among other things, there are some absolutely wonderful finds here: for example, the scene where Oliver auditions for the role of the killer. Or the emergence of real fans in the podcast, who begin to suggest various ideas to the creators of the podcast.

Also very interesting (and even somewhat risky) is the series, in which what is happening is shown from the perspective of a deaf-mute character named Theo (the actor James Coverly, who played him, is actually deaf). There was no such amazing work with the sounds that a very hard of hearing person hears as in The Sound of Metal, but the series still turned out great.

Well, I emphasize once again that, despite the complex stories of the main characters and their certain tragedies, despite the fact that we are talking about investigating a murder, this is still a parody series and it is literally permeated with humor and irony. And this, of course, is a comedy series that I watched with great pleasure.

An excellent script, a wonderful production, a wonderful acting, a bunch of interesting characters (there are only meetings of the residents of “Arconia” that are worth something), an exciting plot – in general, just brilliant, I strongly recommend not to miss it!

By the way, the series was expectedly renewed for a second season – I’ll wait!

Murders in the same building / Only Murders in the Building review

Director: John Hoffman, Steve Martin Cast: Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, Aaron Dominguez, Amy Ryan, Tina Fay, Nathan Lane, Molik Pancioli, Sting, Jackie Hoffman, Teddy Coluca, Jane Hodishell, Vanessa Azpilaga, Julian Keehy , Jane Lynch, James Coverly

Series, USA, 2021, 30 min. Comedy parody, 10 episodes in the first season

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