Movie review: A Simple Favor

A Simple Favor— Running Time: 1:57 — Rating: R
“A Simple Favor” hands us the gift of unpredictability. After dutifully trying to follow its early twists and turns, we realize there’s no point to that so we settle in to enjoy its craziness. What unfolds is quite like movies of the ’40s and ’50s when audiences didn’t ask comedies to make sense; they just asked them to make fun. That happens here.
The story opens with a tall woman in theatrical dress and behavior striding to pick up her little son at school. Her son Nicky (played by Ian Ho) is the best buddy of Miles Smothers (Joshua Satine) and their mothers meet in what is one of the most unlikely friendships a scriptwriter could imagine. Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), the stately, gorgeous mother of little Nicky introduces herself to Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), the relaxed mother of Miles. Our initial instinct: these two mothers will detest each other.
Emily lives in the grand luxury of a modern mansion where she is married to English professor Sean (Henry Golding) who appears rarely and seems to love his wife but doesn’t understand her for a second. Neither do we. Emily cultivates a friendship with Stephanie that results in Stephanie becoming caretaker for Emily’s little boy along with her own son. And then — wonder of wonders — Emily disappears.
When that happens, Stephanie goes into high gear in search of her new best friend. The police are called, the husband stays on hand, and Stephanie spends the rest of the movie putting the pieces of the mystery together. None of those pieces makes any sense at all, but just forget that and enjoy watching Stephanie as she moves through the search that leads the audience into one silly situation after another. But wait. The whole ridiculous story has become fun — a little like eating a bowl of ice cream instead of your vegetables.
It’s possible, nearly probable, that you may sink happily into the zany situations created by the principals. Golding is the most appealing of the actors. His Sean loves the mysterious and magnetic Emily without understanding anything about what makes her who she is. As Lively creates an imposing woman always sophisticated in manner, motion and dress. She does it well because we never stop trying to fathom the why of her behavior.
As Kendrick does a fine job of changing her clothes, hairdo and behavior from ordinary school mom to the woman she would like to be as sophisticated friend to both Emily and Sean. The nice thing about the trio is that no one is mean, just wacky. Kendrick masters several personalities for Stephanie as she moves among cultures and people in the search for her friend. Give a big hand to director Paul Feig who somehow sensed at the outset that he could make great fun of a gang of people who had nothing in common. He has given us the fun of the impossible.
— Reviewed by Joan Ellis

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