Searching and A Simple Favor
Next to the month of January, the first three weeks of September are a customary dead zone at the movie theater. With kids back in school and many adults focused on the start of football season, there isn’t much released that seems worth seeing on the big screen. As an example, Predator comes to mind.
On the other hand, both Searching and A Simple Favor are two films flying under the cinematic radar screen. Both movies are wonderfully creative, so let me start with Searching.
This movie has many assets, not the least of which is the musical score by Torin Borrowdale.
When the widower David Kim becomes overwhelmed with the disappearance of his 16 year old daughter, he resorts to using her laptop when police searches come up empty. Ninety percent of the film is a reflection of what dad discovers on his daughter’s laptop, and it creates an increasing environment of suspense never seen on the screen in that fashion.
If you think this movie sounds a bit tedious or boring, let me encourage all of you to set aside your doubts. To begin with, it follows Hollywood’s recent fixation with single fathers raising daughters as seen in such splendid films as Hearts Beat Loud and Leave No Trace. The film captures your attention from the very beginning where you watch the heartbreaking saga of Mr. Kim’s beloved wife as she succumbs to lymphoma during the opening credits.
Secondly, John Cho recreates his wonderful contributions as seen in recent films like Columbus (2017) and his role as Sulu in Star Trek Beyond (2016). Here, he plays a father who learns he doesn’t really know a lot about his child as both were overwhelmed with the loss of wife and mother. Though he is cooperating with the police in their investigation, his trauma is exacerbated as he interacts with some of his child’s unknown friends who are 16 year olds acting like 16 year olds.
In addition, Debra Messing discards her legendary role in the TV series Will and Grace, here playing a detective who may be hiding her own dark secrets. Her interaction with a father who is in the process of emotionally unravelling defines the brilliance of this movie. The ending is as shocking as it is unexpected.
A Simple Favor
Just as director Paul Feig displayed in Bridesmaids (2011), The Heat (2013) and the hysterical Spy (2015), he is a man who has secretly invaded the crevices of a woman’s world. Let me begin this review with a confession. Despite the movie’s many strengths, I was frequently overcome with its weaknesses. However, I could not escape the fact that the large female audience erupted in constant laughter which I cannot ignore.
To begin with, this is an R rated film involving two women who have elevated profanity to an art form. Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie, a single mother who has a blog site where she displays her skill as a cook. In the process, she meets Emily, an arrogant mother whose magnificent clothing reflects the fact that she works for a top Tom Ford-like fashion designer. Given that Emily’s child is in the same class as Stephanie’s, she asked Stephanie to watch her child as she leaves on a short business trip. However, she quickly disappears, and Stephanie’s quest to find her serves as the focus of the entire film.
Before going further, let me admit in this review that the film reminded me of the old Shakespeare classic Much Ado About Nothing. Ms. Kendrick’s character was incredibly naïve and it was hard to feel any empathy for her as her life unraveled. Then again, Blake Lively commands your attention as a very nasty woman who seemingly lacks any type of human emotion.
On the other hand, Ms. Lively’s interchange with Ms. Kendrick caused constant laughter from all of the women in the theater as noted above. As an example, Ms. Lively spent most of her free moments slamming down large martinis, in the process challenging Ms. Kendrick’s Stephanie to acknowledge the single most embarrassing moment in her life. While I won’t reveal where that conversation lead, let me simply warn you that Ms. Lively changed the profane words represented by the initials MF to BF when referring to Stephanie’s admissions.
In addition, Henry Golding makes a marvelous contribution as Emily’s confused husband, and it is worth remembering his great performance as the Asian New Yorker in the splendid Crazy Rich Asians. Wrestling on speculation that his wife is dead, you really can’t fault him for his attraction to Kendrick’s Stephanie.
A Simple Favor is a murder mystery wrapped in a comedy that repeatedly left me shaking my head. While I admired its creative thrust, I made sure I dodged all of the young women sitting in my row who left the theater laughing uproariously.