A Simple Favor (2018) SPOILER FREE REVIEW

By: Tyler Carlin

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Director Paul Feig (Spy, Bridesmaids) delivers yet another wonderful female led comedy with some unique twists. A Simple Favor centers around Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) who lives a seemingly plain Jane lifestyle becoming friends with Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) who lives a life that can only be described as “the entire season of a popular soap opera” complete with an evil twin, a questionable suicide, and a retired author, Sean Townsend (Henry Golding), for a husband, and what might happen when a good friend makes friends with a beautiful and terrible person. The story takes its murder mystery elements as seriously as Gone Girl (2014), with all the cunning genius of a desperate wife, but delivers jokes reminiscent of Mean Girls (2004), delivering a satisfying twisting story while keeping the audience engaged with laughter, and it works surprisingly well.

Anna Kendrick is an amazing human being. In a role that I can only imagine was specifically written for Kristen Bell, Kendrick delivers a noteworthy performance as a hyper-peppy widowed vlogger mom who discovers the lucrative merits of true crime content in today’s world. The movie shares its narrative partially through vlogs and she absolutely nails the awkward new-vlogger-with-something-to-share-but-not-much-camera-presence, and her vlog about helpful tips for elementary school moms and extravagant investigative true crime is absolutely my forever mood. Her character strongly contrasts Lively’s, who has taken the role of manic pixie dream girl and turned it into confident badass dream girl, who fears nothing and tosses the vermouth before pouring her martini. After the two star-crossed leads become best friends and share tragically hilarious personal stories which you will have to uncomfortably see to believe, Lively’s inspiring confidence creates in Kendrick’s character the only kryptonite to a con artist there is, a genuinely good friend.

Let me be clear, this movie is not without its flaws. This movie is about Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively and Henry Golding, to a fault. Most of the other characters who make appearances are easily forgotten and at this moment I couldn’t tell you any of their names. Mostly, I’m just disappointed Andrew Rannells only made me laugh about twice during the whole movie, and while the second laugh was good, his lack of development earlier in the film made it take away from the serious nature of the story, and at moments the movie seemed to be a bit more of a parody of itself than anything else, and it was in those moments where I had to sit back and remember I was in a movie theater and check my watch, which is never a good sign.

It should also be worth noting that Golding delivers another wonderful

performance, after his breakout in Crazy Rich Asians (2018) I was concerned that this follow up may not be wonderful, but he really does deliver a satisfying portrayal of a well written and dynamic character, and his chemistry on screen with Lively and Kendrick seems genuine and works very well.

It’s a genuinely fascinating film that had me leaving the theater still thinking about its themes and the characters loyalties, and despite a few dull moments and confusing character arcs, it works. Do you have to see this film? No. Will you enjoy it if you do? Yes. Especially if you like to pay attention to the movies you’re watching, it spoon feeds a complex story and keeps you laughing along the way.

Overall: 7.2/10

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Love, Simon (2018) Review

So let me start by saying this. This movie is not for me. Much like Black Panther (2018) this is not a movie made with me in mind. In the run up to Love, Simon coming out, I saw social media in a tizzy over “whether this was a movie that American teens needed” or not. The fact that this question is even being asked is the reason we need movies like this. For 110 minutes I sat outside my comfort zone watching a teenage love story that, for the the first time in Hollywood history, wasn’t about me. <br><br>Love, Simon tells the story of Simon Spier, a high-school senior living somewhere in what I guess to be suburban Atlanta. He’s got a life only a writer can dream up, with a cheerleader mom, a quarterback father, a sister he actually likes, and, by his own definition, a huge ass secret. This isn’t a story of self discovery. We know Simon is gay within two minutes, in case you didn’t already guess from the trailer.

Actually the whole movie takes place this way. We know Simon is gay. Simon knows Simon is gay. No one else knows Simon is gay. Got it? Moving on. And that’s the whole point of the movie. This isn’t a movie rooted in homophobia. It’s not a story where the gay kid has friends that try to turn him straight or a father that kicks him to the curb.

If you’re thinking, “this is a very 2018 way to start the conversation,” you’re 100% correct. It’s a pretty 2018 movie. We’ve had legal same sex marriage in all 50 states for almost three years now. We know it’s okay to be gay. I’m not trying to say there aren’t still struggles, by any means. I can’t know what it’s like to be a gay man in America. But this movie makes it very clear that homophobia will not be tolerated under any circumstances and that no one feels sorry for a bully. But it also reminds us that high-schoolers are high-schoolers. There are those who will seize every opportunity to make fun of someone for any reason.

However, the great part of this movie comes from the fact that it’s not even a love story. It has a love story, yes. But at its core it’s a coming of age tale no different than The Breakfast Club or Perks of Being A Wallflower. It just has two boys that fall in love at the end instead of a boy and a girl. Oh and the massive societal pressure to still make “coming out” a big event. This topic of “why do only gay people have to come out” is broached in possibly the funniest scene of a movie full of well written quirky and sarcastic teen humor.

The obvious, beat-you-over-the-head theme of this movie is the standard “love is love” fare. The movie reminds us that Simon is no less of a person because of who he is. His friends couldn’t care less about it. His mom pretty much knew. His dad only feels bad about years of overly-hetero-dad-trying-to-connect jokes. We’ve all been there. But there’s so much more to this movie. Everything it says, it says subtly. It’s all presumed. The lessons it’s trying to teach us are told in a “this is how it is, this is how it’s always been” kind of way. Simons friends all tell each other they love each other as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. Which it should be. Simon is more than willing to help his dad make a romantic gesture for his mom. Which he should be. He’s 100% in on his sisters dreams. Which he should be.

So what about the movie itself. It was brought to us by the same production team responsible for The Fault In Our Stars (2014). They gave us the complete package once again. The writing and directing are nearly perfect, delivering a completely believable cast of high-schoolers. Anyone who’s seen some of the late 2000s teen comedies can tell you how difficult a task that can be. Nick Robinson brought the title character to life in flying colors. I struggled with him. I felt awkward with him. I cried with him. I found myself emotionally involved in a story I can’t even begin to imagine.

In addition, it looked like a Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey movie. The attention to detail present in both of their John Green adaptations shines through in this movie. We’re given a setting entirely by Simon’s father’s choice of headwear and the characters’ particular penchant for Waffle House. His car, the posters on his bathroom mirror, and the notes written on his blackboard wall all tell a different part of his story. The whole movie is beautiful, bright and colorful. It could be any high school in Anywhere, USA. It’s well scored and soundtracked with old hits from the likes of The Kinks and The Jackson 5 to new tracks including an original song from Bleachers. All in all, John Hughes should be proud of the way his legacy has been left through movies like this.

As I said before, this is not my movie. It’s not for or about me. At the end of the day, my opinion on it doesn’t matter. I can tell you this, though. It’s an important movie. If it gives one kid more courage to be comfortable and happy with who they are then it was worth making. And if there’s a conversation happening about making it easier to be gay in America, I want to be part of it.

Love, Simon is a coming of age tale like we’ve rarely seen before. I laughed, cried and smiled all at the same time. Writing, directing, acting and just plain execution of the whole story were nearly perfect. If I had any complaint to make I’d say all of the characters are maybe just a little bit over the top. I understand, however, that it’s a movie and that’s always going to be the case. That’s how you make a convincing story. I give it 8/10.

I did not initially want to see this movie. It struck me as a sappy love story. But I love Bleachers and my girlfriend wanted to see it. So here I am. Let me be the first to say I’m glad I saw it. My life is better for having seen this movie.

-Love, Ethan