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Laramie Movie Scope: A Simple Favor

Murder, mystery, comedy, twists and turns

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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September 22, 2018 – This pseudo noir comedy drama pits a complicated housewife against a sociopathic murderous schemer in a battle of wits, sex and charm. Mysteries and plot twists abound in the midst of comedy and romance.

Bubbly Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie Smothers, a widowed housewife who operates a cooking video blog site, where she typically opens her show by addressing her mother. She makes an unusual connection with Emily Nelson (played by Blake Lively of “The Shallows”) the mysterious mother of her son's best friend at school. A trio of school parents who know Stephanie and Emily act like a Greek Chorus, making snide comments about both throughout the movie, and sometimes even play key roles in the story.

Stephanie offers to take care of Emily's son, while Emily and her husband, Sean (Henry Golding of “Crazy Rich Asians”) are both out of town. This simple favor turns into a major drama when Emily disappears and the police are called in to investigate. Emily's body is eventually found in a pond in Michigan. It turns out that Sean stood to collect $4 million in insurance, and he was heavily in debt. Police suspect he killed Emily.

The real story is way more complicated than that. Stephanie starts to investigate Emily's background and turns up some startling facts about Stephanie and her family. Some of her findings put a hold on Sean's insurance payout. When Stephanie uncovers the real identity of Emily, all hell breaks loose. A suspenseful ending includes a shooting and real threats of murder.

Complicated relationships form between Stephanie, Emily and Sean. Emily is a larger than life character, flamboyant, impulsive, domineering, sexy and utterly amoral. Stephanie is also complicated, with dark secrets from her past which are revealed about half way through the film. The plot is filled with clever twists, some of which are not entirely believable, but they are nevertheless entertaining.

Even though there are very dark subjects in this film, including suicide and murder, there is a steady diet of comedy throughout. Overall, while there are similarities to film noir, this is not such a serious film. It is not overwhelmed by darkness. The light shines through.

The two main characters, Stephanie and Emily are both charismatic in their own way and have some depth. Most recent movie scripts don't give female characters much respect, but this screenplay, written by Jessica Sharzer, based on Darcey Bell's novel, gives the two lead characters plenty of power and substance. Kendrick and Lively both respond with marvelous performances. Director Paul Feig (“Spy” and “Ghostbusters”) shows he can balance comedy, drama and suspense with dexterity. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]