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A Simple Favor

A Hitchcockian thriller with a comic twist 

© Lionsgate Mommy blogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) seeks to uncover the truth behind the sudden disappearance of her best friend Emily (Blake Lively).
      Widow Stephanie (Anna Kendrick: Pitch Perfect 3) is a mommy blogger obsessed with perfection. She searches out healthy and delicious recipes for her son. She volunteers for every school activity. She crafts her heart out to cultivate the perfect Pinterest life.
      But Stephanie can’t make friends. Other parents find her mockingly obnoxious. 
      She finds her dream friend in Emily Nelson (Blake Lively: All I See Is You). The mother of her son’s new friend is Stephanie’s opposite. She doesn’t cook, she curses in front of the kids, she dresses like a Vogue model and displays explicit paintings of herself. Stephanie is shocked and attracted. Emily, in turn, seems to like the lonely supermother. Soon Stephanie is trying to copy her new BFF’s effortlessly cool lifestyle. 
      So Stephanie is glad to watch Emily’s son — until an afternoon becomes three days. 
     Did Emily abandon him? Or is something sinister going on?
     Stephanie turns her obsession to unraveling the mystery of what happened to Emily Nelson. 
     This thriller full of twists and laughs is a lighthearted take on the classic mystery movie by Paul Feig (Ghostbusters), a director known for his female-driven comedies. Rather than a serious attempt at a thriller, this film is Feig’s riff on the Hitchcockian genre and stereotypes. There are crazy twists, ludicrous plot details and outfits so stylish you’ll want to rethink your fall wardrobe. The result is a sumptuous-looking spoof with a wry sense of humor and great performances. 
       Lively is the standout, her charm and comic timing making Emily both interesting and oddly sympathetic. Kendrick is her usual entertaining self, using her perky personality to signal Stephanie’s tendency toward mania in ways both hilarious and disturbing. 
      A Simple Favor’s only problem is its failure to build tension. The movie is simply too funny to take seriously. 
Good Comedic Thriller • R • 117 mins. 
 
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Fahrenheit 11/9
       Filmmaker Michael Moore returns to his catastrophic forecasting with a new documentary about the rise of Donald Trump. 
      Moore is known for liberal views, dramatic hyperbole and straining the meaning of documentary. 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 126 mins. 
 
The House with the Clock in the Walls
       After the death of his parents, orphan Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) moves in with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black), a powerful warlock. 
      But the magical world is in crisis. An evil warlock has built a clock that counts down to the apocalypse. If the clock stops ticking, the world ends. The doomsday clock is hidden in the walls of Uncle Jonathan’s house.
      Can Lewis and Jonathan find the clock and save the world? Or are there things even magic can’t manage? 
      Filled with wonder and fun actors, this is a charming children’s movie. The storyline may, however, be a bit tedious for adults. 
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 104 mins. 
 
Life Itself
       Life Itself follows college sweethearts Will (Oscar Isaac) and Abby (Olivia Wilde) through the beautiful turns and horrible twists that comprise a life with a longterm partner. 
      Dan Fogelman, the melodramatic storyteller behind the popular TV show This Is Us, is both writer and director. Compressing high drama and sweeping plot points into a movie, rather than a serial, is tricky because there isn’t time to draw out emotional beats. 
      The cast is stellar, however, and may be able to keep the movie on the right side of sentimentality. Isaac is one of the best actors working today. He is joined by Annette Bening, Mandy Patinkin and Antonio Banderas to form an ensemble that should be exciting to watch. 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 117 mins. 
 
Lizzie
      Tiring of living under an oppressive father of evil demeanor and violent rages, Lizzie Borden (Chloë Sevigny) grabs an ax. Sevigny is a great actress, making Lizzie’s rage and hatred palpable in every scene.
      This violent feminist retelling of the classic children’s rhyme and true American crime story looks at history through modern sensibilities. Its premise — given the circumstances, why wouldn’t Lizzie kill her oppressors — is a fascinating thought, but one that may not appeal to all audiences. 
Prospects: Flickering • R • 106 mins.