A SIMPLE FAVOR: I would much rather be a fly on a tablecloth with women having lunch than men because females are more likely to discuss their true feelings. These kind of verbal intimacies are core elements of an unlikely friendship forged between a chronically perky, widowed mommy blogger (Anna Kendrick) and a cynical corporate fashionista (Blake Lively) married to a novelist (Henry Golding) coasting on the royalties of a past best-seller. In martini fueled discussions, the two women pass the time trading the sort of dark secrets that Freud and the Marquis deSade would have a field day with. But in due time, Jessica Sharzer’s screenplay becomes a domestic GONE GIRL (2014) type mystery when Lively’s (THE TOWN) wordly sophisticate disappears. As the mystery unravels with some romantic subplots and sexual twists, the film puts its toes in the pools of subtle dark comedy, film noir parodies of manipulative, scheming women with hidden pasts plus a sort of wry, underlying commentary on the way fame arises from misfortune and tragedy. All of this doesn’t always make for a comfortable consistency of tone but the dialogue is smart enough to make the work highly watchable throughout. The two women have a catalytic chemistry with each other in their few scenes together even when you know that one is likely “playing” the other. Despite an off the track conclusion that feels like a send-up of scenes where characters overexplain all the plot twists and double crosses in grade B detective thrillers, director Paul Feig (BRIDESMAIDS) has an appreciation and grasp of the source material that he occasionally takes a swipe at, not to mention an understanding of the complex dramas that characterize most female friendships. But I think the most commendable quality about FAVOR, with its’ French laden musical soundtrack and comic references to DIABOLIQUE (1955), is that it’s willing to give its’ audience credit for having intelligence without ever taking itself too seriously. CRITIC’S GRADE: B

CLOSING CREDITS: Here are movies to look for in October and their release dates – BAYOU CAVIAR (October 5), A STAR IS BORN (October 5), VENOM (October 5), BAD TIMES AT THE EL ROYALE (October 12), BEAUTIFUL BOY (October 12), FIRST MAN (October 12), 22 JULY (October 19), CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? (October 19), HALLOWEEN (October 19), THE HATE U GIVE (October 19), SERENITY (October 19), AIR STRIKE (October 26), JOHNNY ENGLISH STRIKES AGAIN (October 26)