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Thrills lose out to laughs in mystery-comedy mashup 'A Simple Favor'.

Byline: Sonia Rao The Washington Post

Ice cold and finished off with a dramatic twist, "A Simple Favor" has a lot in common with the gin martinis that its lead characters drink throughout the film.

The witty thriller, an adaptation of Darcey Bell's 2017 beach read, follows glam fashion publicist Emily (Blake Lively) and widowed parenting vlogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), two opposites in small-town Connecticut who become friends as they spend their sons' play dates boozing and discussing past misdeeds.

But Emily seems to hold more secrets than she lets on when a sudden work trip, during which she leaves her son in Stephanie's care -- the titular favor -- turns into a missing-person case. Everyone is quick to point the finger at Emily's husband, Sean (Henry Golding), who upon returning home from a trip of his own insists he had nothing to do with her disappearance.

The trailer reveals little about the movie's genre, which turns out to be a hybrid of twisty mystery and absurdist comedy. That makes sense, considering director Paul Feig is known for such boisterous comedies as "Bridesmaids" and "Spy."

This latest film is quite a departure.

It is also the one with the weakest understanding of how time works. At a recent preview screening, some audience members reacted audibly when Stephanie refers to Emily as her "best friend," given the two have just met. Others groaned when Stephanie and Sean declare their love for each other, mere weeks after Emily is out of the picture.

Kendrick and Golding's lack of chemistry does not help.

On paper, each actor seems well cast: Kendrick's chirpiness and wry sense of humor suit her character. And Golding is good at playing the hot guy in a movie full of determined women. Their romance, however, feels forced.

But the most surprising performance is Lively's. As the cheeky Emily, the star of such recent thrillers as "All I See Is You" and "The Shallows" finally gets the chance to be funny. She proves quite adept at it, especially when deadpanning such lines as, "Mother Teresa and I are, like, the same person," amid a string of vulgarities.

"A Simple Favor" thrives when it embraces that humor. It gets bogged down, however, by its intricate plot, especially in the second half, when Emily's secrets come tumbling out. As she tells Stephanie early on, "Secrets are like margarine: easy to spread, bad for the heart."

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Title Annotation:TimeOut
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Sep 14, 2018
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