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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Cinema Review: A Simple Favour

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On and on it twisted and turned, with director Paul Feig pulling rabbit after rabbit from his seemingly bottomless hat, each surprise development accompanied by an almost audible ‘You didn’t see that coming, did you’. In a whodunnit that is way too tricky for its own good, the plot eventually runs right off the rails before trying to save itself by pretending to be aware all along of its farfetched nature. Widowed Stephane (Anna Kendrick) has a busybody nature that leads her to make friends with Emily (Blake Lively), whose little brat kid plays with Stephane’s. Over martinis at Emily’s swank house, in which the living room is dominated by a ghastly painting of her in the nude, Stephane confesses that she had sex with her own brother – so much for that mousy, nervy demeanour. Things get really weird when Emily goes missing after leaving her son with Stephane. Is it simply a grab for a life insurance payout? Or are there other, more sinister factors in play? It didn’t take long for me to not give a rat’s either way, for Emily is a crass piece of work, her husband Sean (Henry Golding – a handsome Asian, in line with the new vogue) too smarmy for words and Stephane more extreme in her moods of befuddlement, anxiety and increasing cupidity and cockiness. There is a funny scene where the cops burst in on the holier-than-thou other parents while they are smoking a bong, but a convoluted plot almost strangles itself to death with bizarre flashbacks and red herrings. The silliness of the concluding sequence gives the impression that Feig had given up on the idea of nail-biting mystery and resigned his movie to the status of tongue-in-cheek farce. Most of the loose ends are tied up, but the death of Stephane’s brother and husband in a car accident (about which we knew from the start) is left up in the air. Was it meant to be seen as murder/suicide? Disappointing and too long.

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