Like the Downton Abbey movie before it, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is a big-screen gift for fans of the TV show that preceded it – and there are many, many Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries fans.
The movie is a boisterous, bright and joyous adventure that lets audiences take a break from their harried lives for 90 minutes, plunged into the world of Phryne Fisher (Essie Davis) and her sleuthing ways.
Sure, it’s cheesy and the punny repartees are on the nose, but that’s part of the enjoyment.
If you’re buying a ticket to Miss Fisher, you know what you’re in for, and rest assured that what you loved about the show will be served up to you on a gleaming silver platter polished by Mr Butler.
Not actually Mr Butler, who doesn’t appear, while companion Dot (Ashleigh Cummings), young copper Hugh (Hugo Johnstone-Burt), and red-raggers Cec (Anthony Sharp) and Bert (Travis McMahon) only pop in for the briefest of cameos.
That’s because Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears takes us beyond the borders of Melbourne (and Victoria), taking us far-afield to Palestine in 1929, still occupied by the British in post-World War I.
Miss Fisher, she of the sharp Louise Brooks bob, dazzling sequined gowns and pearl-handled revolver, starts the movie by breaking a young Bedouin woman named Shirin Abbas (Izabella Yena) out of a Jerusalem prison.
Shirin has been locked up for supposedly inciting insurrection against the colonial forces, but Miss Fisher knows what Shirin is really guilty of – she’s a young woman using her voice against injustice.
Shirin says she saw her whole family murdered a decade earlier when their desert town was attacked and then consequently swallowed up in a sandstorm. No one has believed her story – including her now London-based uncle Sheikh Kahlil Abbas (Kal Naga) – except Miss Fisher who promises to help.
In London, Shirin and the Sheikh are guests of the aristocratic Lofthouse family, including Lord Lofthouse (Daniel Lapaine), Lady Lofthouse (Jacqueline McKenzie) and younger brother Jonathan Lofthouse (Rupert Penry-Jones).
In their quest to find out what happened to Shirin’s family, Miss Fisher and Jack (Nathan Page) stumble onto ancient artefacts, an ominous curse and long buried secrets, all while sizzling on screen with that undeniable chemistry.
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Phryne Fisher’s appeal – first on the page in the books by Kerry Greenwood and then in the TV series that was licenced to more than 120 countries – isn’t just her uncanny ability to solve complex crimes and attract trouble.
It’s an attitude – confidence, daring and a justified disregard for silly rules made by men for the benefit of men and the status quo. And she always looks amazing while doing it.
Margot Wilson’s stunning costumes catch your eye – whether it’s a bold red dress suit standing out in a sand-coloured Jerusalem marketplace or the mauve cloche hat sitting atop her head.
The sartorial pleasures of Miss Fisher have always been one of the series’ features and it has only been stepped up on the big screen – there’s a particularly sensational white ensemble for the desert-bound final act.
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears was produced by the series’ Deb Cox and Fiona Eagger, with Cox penning the original story and Tony Tilse in the director’s chair.
The globetrotting adventure certainly has scale for a production with a relatively small budget, set against the backdrop of a toffy English estate and the sweeping sand dunes of the desert (the film was shot on location in Morocco), giving the show’s fans a little something extra for their ticket price.
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is a fan affair but for those who are, it’s an exciting romp, full of that charming Phryne verve.
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears is in cinemas from Thursday, February 21
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