Nothing captures the failure of this movie better than the suburban seduction scene where Kathy tries to ignite her husband, who lies on the floor, dreaming in mathematical theorems.

THE FAVOR

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"The Favor" tries to make merry of the itch that so often sets in at 30-something. Nice couple, nice children, nice house, no trauma equals boredom. Husband Peter (Bill Pullman) is a mathematics whiz who chews on his equations full-time at home. Wife Kathy (Harley Jane Kozak) is in her tenth year of tending to the relentless presence of their children.

With her 15th high school reunion coming up, how better to spice things up than to fantasize about her first major romance? Kathy has only to close her eyes to imagine herself seducing Tom (Ken Wahl) under the bleachers of his football triumphs, on the butcher block in his wilderness cabin, or at the daydreamed funeral of her own husband. The closest she can come in reality to making love with Tom is to send her friend Emily (Elizabeth McGovern) to do it for her.

For Emily, it's just another of her long list of one night stands. What Emily wants is what Kathy has: family. And it doesn't look promising considering her involvement with Elliott (Brad Pitt), artist and eternal child. What happens next is a round robin of planes, hotels, near misses and suspicion. Who is the father in Emily's new pregnancy? Will Kathy sleep with Tom? Can Kathy and Peter rekindle the fire? Does anyone care?

The problem with this movie is that it is deadly dull, obvious, and without spark. What gives it a small bit of life is the presence of Elizabeth McGovern, a classy, intelligent actress who manages to make bad lines sound good. Bill Pullman is mildly appealing as the geek with the potential for redemption, but Harley Jane Kozak is too awkward to be a believable seductress. Brad Pitt seems oddly young and mild until we learn that this movie sat on the shelf for four years before release. His performance here predates his later, richly earned success.

One other performance deserves mention. Whether it is the man himself, or his interpretation of the role, Ken Wahl's Tom is so awful as to be inconceivable as the subject of anyone's fantasy. He is utterly leaden. In welcome counterpoint, Kozak and McGovern do realize the lightness and closeness of the banter between women who are close friends.

Nothing captures the failure of this movie better than the suburban seduction scene where Kathy tries to ignite her husband, who lies on the floor, dreaming in mathematical theorems. The sexual imagery is so sophomoric, so labored that the movie's central problem fairly jumps to life before our eyes. It's heavy-handed excess again, Hollywood's favorite approach to comedy. The writers and the director hit us over the head with their thoughts as if we are too stupid to appreciate lightness, subtlety or humor - as if we are too ignorant to know that "Four Weddings and a Funeral" is playing next door, waiting for our second visit.


Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 491
Studio: Orion Pictures
Rating: R


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