A SIMPLE FAVOR, US, 2018. starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Dustin Milligan, Andrew Rannels, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine. Directed by Paul Feig. 117 minutes. Rated M (Mature themes, coarse language, sex scenes, violence and drug use).
What could be more simple than one mother asking another mother to help her out by picking the children up after school? Needless to say, this film shows a range of complications that nobody could have quite anticipated. And, of course, that is part of the enjoyment.
Women come out quite well from this story – even a strong female villain. The men are also-rans…
One thought that arises is that this is the kind of story that could have been made in the Golden Years of Hollywood (though the language would have been extensively cleaned up). Anna Kendrick has shown herself quite a talent in serious roles but also very good in comic timing. She is a kind of 21st-century Nancy Drew, popular in those past Hollywood years. Blake Lively is a rather statuesque blonde with a commanding presence, the epitome of self-confidence and glamour. As it turns out, it is the kind of role that might have appealed to Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwyck.
But, a 21st-century audience may not be thinking of these things and just go along with the way this interaction between the two women develops.
Yes, they are mothers and there are the questions of picking up the two little boys, great friends, from school as well as Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), single-mother (though, as with the whole screenplay, there are hidden secrets that do surprise) ultra-busy about doing things for the school, helping everyone out (to the sarcastic responses of so many of the other parents), even with her own Vlog (video-blog for those unfamiliar) for mothers where she cooks her specialities for viewers or does some handiwork.
Emily (Blake Lively) is a businesswoman, in PR, the epitome of glamour, rather hard in her demeanour yet befriending Stephanie. She has a trophy husband, Sean, an author who has only one novel, years ago, to his name. He is played by Henry Golding at the same time as he starred as a Crazy Rich Asian.
For those who have seen the trailer and the advertising, it is clear that Emily disappears leaving Stephanie with the children, falling in love with Sean, being interrogated by the police.
Actually, what has happened is exceedingly complex, audience curiosity on the increase, some developments that might have been guessed other developments beyond guessing.
Stephanie learns a lot about herself in the situation, acknowledging her past, discovering that she could fall in love, always devoted to the children, but determined to find out what actually happened, becoming an effective amateur sleuth.
In fact, with her Vlog, she is able to address all the mothers, speaking to camera (which she has effectively used in her sleuthing) to explain to the mothers that she will carry on with the cooking and her favourite recipes, carry on with her handiwork, but is available to do detective work for solving mysteries.
Roadshow Released September 13th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.