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Sunday
Oct072018

Catch-Up: A Simple Favor, The Children Act, Colette

by Nathaniel R

So as not to get ANY further behind on reviewing and such -- you wouldn't believe my calendar right now -- here are quick takes on four  movies we barely said anything about, the first of which you should absolutely make time to see.

A Simple Favor (Paul Feig)
Synopsis: Mommy vlogger Stephanie's (Anna Kendrick) new best friend, chic enigmatic Emily (Blake Lively) goes missing then turns up dead... or does she?... in this twisty genre mashup. 
Capsule: Half comic thriller. Half campy mystery. Half bad girl dress-up fantasy. The math doesn't add up, I'm aware, but it's all enjoyable. The leading ladies are deliciously inspired, marrying all the disparate tones with as much ease, flair, and detail as the costumes, chic soundtrack, and aspirational production design. Makes a solid case for itself as the year's most delightful surprise...


Awards Potential: Not likely which is a shame because the costumes are applause worthy and the very least awards season could do is give us a Golden Globe comedy nod or three for this gem.
Where to see: Currently in wide release A-/B+

The Children Act  (Richard Eyre)
Synopsis: A judge (Emma Thompson), mostly at ease with making difficult and unpopular positions on thorny cases, must decide whether or not the hospital can force a young man (Fionn Whitehead of Dunkirk fame), not quite of legal age, to get a blood transfusion that will save his life even though his religion forbids it.
Capsule: An affecting performances from the always reliable Emma Thompson is the best reason to see this otherwise dry and a bit unwieldy adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel (by McEwan himself with Richard Eyre directing). Whitehead is compelling, too, but for such a forcefully provocative subject matter the film is relatively staid and never makes the case that this wouldn't work much better in prose form.
Awards Potential: Not eligible from out understanding given the DirectTV bow before theatrical.
Where to see: Rentable on Amazon, YouTube, and Google Play. On DVD in November B-/C+


Colette (Wash Westmoreland)
Synopsis: A biopic about the French author Colette who, as a young woman (Keira Knightley), ghostwrote a hugely successful novel for her first husband, a famous novelist (Dominic West). Their bohemian open marriage struggles to make room for her own emerging talent / identity / gender expression. 
Capsule: Hmmm. Keira Knightley and Dominic West and a solid supporting cast detail the ever widening sexual and social web of this couple but perhaps the project was hobbled from the get go by the strange decision to focus on Colette's early life when she wasn't that much of a trailblazer yet. Colette had an very fascinating iconoclastic gender-norm distrupting life but what we see here is mostly only what came before she found her voice.
Awards Potential: In a weaker year or with a bigger hit (though how much of a hit it will become is still up in the air) Keira Knightley and Dominic West might have been Best Actress / Supporting Actor contenders. Strangely, given the time period and Colette as counter-culture icon, the costumes are surprisingly non-flashy.
Where to see: In theaters in select cities now and still expanding.  C+/C

The Happytime Murders (Brian Henson)
Synopsis: Former LAPD partners, Detective Connie Edwards (Melissa McCarthy) and puppet P.I. Phil Philips try to solve a case os serial puppet murders.
Capsule: Think Who Framed Roger Rabbit only with puppets instead of cartoons and much much less funny and more  R rated. The concept isn't bad, though a Roger Rabbit lift, but the execution is questionable. Would probably have made a rowdy and hilarious short film because some of jokes and visual gags (especially within a puppet porn shop or with an interminable sex scene within a P.I.'s office) are inspired.... at least, he quickly adds, within the very specific realm of extreme vulgarity humor. But there's not enough invention or material for 91 minutes of this and the only performance that feels particularly inspired here is Maya Rudolph who works her usual 'how-is-she-this-hilarious?' magic as Phil Phillips resourceful secretary who secretly pines for him.
Awards Potential: No.
Where to See: On DVD and BluRay in December C-

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Reader Comments (20)

I thought The Children Act was a ridiculous soap opera, poorly executed. Thompson didn't really rise above the material either.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBruno

I REALLY enjoyed The Happytime Murders. That said, I saw it at an almost-midnight screening, while drunk, in a theater with a bunch of other drunk people. In other words, the optimal setting.

A Simple Favor is undoubtedly the surprise sleeper hit of the year. In a perfect world, the costumes would absolutely get an Oscar nomination, and probably Blake Lively, too. Talk about a magnetic performance!

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

Can no one find out if Thompson'e eligible she's my number one choice so far in Best Actress,her film is like the The Wife held together by a Powerful Lead.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermarkgordonuk

I'm shocked how much I enjoyed 'A Simple Favor'. It is kind of a tight wire act of tones and I think it pulls it off relatively well. And I'm even MORE shocked at how magnetic I found Blake Lively, an actress, who up until now, never really registered for me. She tears into the role and would definitely be on my shortlist for supporting actress.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterZach

Lively is indeed the main attraction in A Simple Favor. She doesn't make that many movies, but with The Age of Adeline, The Shallows and now this film, the past few years she's proven herself as one of the most underrated actors working today. If she could secure a baity role in an Oscar-friendly movie I could definitely see awards recognition in her future. Hell, if it were up to me, at the moment she'd probably be my supporting actress frontrunner for her delicious turn in A Simple Favor (even if the film itself was - though entertaining - all over the place).

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDieter

I'm glad other people think Lively was deserving of Best Supporting Actress attention and not just me. I think Lionsgate should just go for it and try to do a little awards campaign for the movie and see what happens...they may get some heat. Not necessarily for acting, but maybe in the tech categories like music and costume.

Colette totally white-washed the woman. She was complicated and did some crazy stuff beyond belief. I'd recommend reading the Judith Thurman bio instead.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBia

I thought ‘a simple favour’was terrible. It is easily the worst film I’ve seen at the cinema this year.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChoog

With the unofficial bow out o Knightley n Thompson, the 2nd tier contenders, Blunt, Collette, Mulligan, Ronan, etc can breathe a sigh o brief relief.

If they run a gd campaign, Lively might hav a gd chance o nom in the Golden Globe?

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterClaran

Loved A SIMPLE FAVOR. I've recommended it to so many people right now.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I loved A Simple Favor as well and would totally support a costume nod for it. (This is definitely a good year for contemporary costume design-- I loved the costumes in Blockers of all things.)

However, was it just me or does the plot of A Simple Favor make zero sense? I tried to piece it together after the film and kept running into all sorts of plot holes.

October 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Blake Lively should seriously be considered for awards for her performance in A Simple Favor.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHarmodio

I wish OCEAN'S 8, CRAZY RICH ASIANS and A SIMPLE FAVOR could all get Oscar nominations for costumes. Just make it happen, costume branch! And Blake Likely, too, for the actors. Once upon a time that could have actually happened, especially in the '80s when those random seemingly out of left field choices could occur. Alas, it's probably too much to ask this year.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I’ve been wanting to see A Simple Favor for a while but Moviepass has been making it difficult. Saw Colette which was a mixed bag. Love the concept but the execution was lacking. I wish they had found a way to do something genre defying like Vincent which covered a similar time/place. Instead there were moments when the movie felt bogged down by its own desires to make this conform to contemporary identity politics debates: like when Colette insists on calling Missy “he” and when Missy makes a non-sequitor comment about how gender-bending would me more difficult for a less privileged woman. Both of those moments took me out of the movie and felt far more like a screenwriter carefully covering bases for critics rather than digging into the complexities of gender identities at the end of the 19th century. Maybe Missy was super aware of her privileged status. Maybe Colette and Missy did see Missy as a transman who identified as “he.” But I doubt it. Neither of these worldviews were likely at the end of the 19th C. Adding these pieces felt like way to retain their hero status without interrogating these concepts further. I think the movie struggles with its identity in a similar way. It tries really hard to tell an “empowering” story—without necessarily knowing how to do so in a way that felt genuine/authentic to the subject. Glad that a movie like this exists, though, as it will clear a path for others with more solid visions.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

Blake Lively should SERIOUSLY be considered for awards for her performance in A Simple Favor.
Like... LET'S TALK ABOUT IT until the end.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterdomgogo

catbaskets... i had the same issues with Colette. I dont know how accurate stuff I've read online about Missy is but supposedly Missy didn't identify as a "man" until much later in life and also she called herself Missy, a woman's name, without any hesitation so it seems like they've transposed modern terms onto the movie.

October 8, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

A Simple Favor was fun but completely forgettable. Anna Kendrick continues to try her hardest but there is no one more unlikeable in movies today. Everything about her grates on me.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris

I have a number of questions. Number 1: How dare you? Colette is so good and far superior to The Children Act (a well-acted snooze). And A Simple Favor is a masterpiece.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJes V.

Also would like to point out that Richard Glatzer's literal dying word was "Colette". So dishonor on you all. Dishonor on your whole family. Dishonor on your cow.

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJes V.

The Happytime Murders
Awards Potential: No.

not even the razzies?

October 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Chris -- unlikeable to you. I looooove her. Very likeable to me ;)

Jes V -- i didn't know this and loved Richard but alas, I didn't like the movie.

October 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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