Alfred Hitchcock would have loved “A Simple Favor.”
This is one of those steamy dramas where — with each plot twist — characters are left hanging in the wind, mouths agape, and wondering what’s going to happen next. Each event somehow manages to top the one before.
Anna Kendrick’s Stephanie Smothers is a single mom. She does a cooking TV podcast, volunteers for everything at her kid’s school and leads a dreary, ordinary life. Then she meets Blake Lively’s Emily Nelson. She’s tall, drop-dead gorgeous and exciting. Emily is everything Stephanie isn’t.
As a favor, Stephanie sometimes watches Emily’s son after school when she’s hung up at her fashion industry marketing job. One day Emily calls and asks a simple favor: Will you pick up my son after school?
Then Emily disappears.
What happens to Emily and to Stephanie, and how Emily’s husband Sean plays into the disappearance, is a mystery packed with Hitchcockian intrigue.
Kendrick is the film’s fulcrum. All of the action swirls around a character who grows more surprising by the minute. When she’s not starring in draggy teen crap like the Pitch Perfect flicks, Kendrick can act. She wowed us in “Up in the Air” and “The Company You Keep,” and wows us here.
Her naive, unsure and often stumbling performance is the perfect Yang to Lively’s Yin.
It is Lively, however, who owns this movie. Her performance is electric. There is much to say about her acting, but plot revelation constraints say it has to be left alone. Just trust me on this one: She’s brilliant in a film that is equally brilliant.
Another plus is how director Paul Feig patiently puts it all together. Feig — known for light comic fare like “Bridesmaids,” “Ghostbusters: Answer the Call” and a couple other Melissa McCarthy star vehicles — predictably starts things off light and funny. Just when you’re relaxed, bang!, here comes some drama.
After a bit, the film relaxes and you think you got it wrong, that it is a comedy after all. Then, pow!, more drama.
The film gets more outrageous by the frame. Credit for twists that pile upon twists goes to screenwriter Jessica Sharzer (“Nerve”), who adapts Darcy Bell’s novel. It’s one of those great films where you have it figured out and then you don’t, and then you do but you really don’t.
Movies rarely get more fun than that!
Movie name: ‘A Simple Favor’
Director: Paul Feig
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Nenry Golding, Rupert Friend, Bashir Salahuddin
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for mature themes, brief nudity and language. It’s playing at the AMC Kennewick 12, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.