Stephanie, I need your help.
Are you okay?
I’m fine. But I do just need a simple favor. Can you come over?
If you’re looking for a night out of delicious entertainment, then, yes, this movie is here to do a favor and provide it for you, but, make no mistake, there’s nothing simple about the tonal juggling act required to create this delightfully manicured souffle (there’s a mixed metaphor for you). Anna Kendrick is the lead in this mystery-satire and she commands the screen so effortlessly and so perfectly that you’ll be floored. A crank would say she could play this part in her sleep and she’s certainly no stranger to the adorkably neurotic mommy vlogger vibe she plays here, but her charisma is massive and if you’re somehow still not onboard with her having true star quality, this movie really should settle things for you. When the film opens, Kendrick’s Stephanie Smothers is barely making it through her recipe livestream because her best friend Emily has been missing for several days. In a series of flashbacks, Emily is portrayed by Blake Lively and she is as instantly glamorous and iconic as the film needs her to be, not just wearing, not just owning, but absolutely rocking the **** out of some of the most idiotic outfits this side of Newt Scamander. You wouldn’t think a pair of cuffs, unconnected to any other item of clothing, would really look right resting delicately at the wrists of a woman wearing only a pin-striped vest for a top and you’re right: it doesn’t look right – it looks fabulous. This is the balancing act this movie wants to walk and it nails it to perfection. This is a glossy sweet dessert, nothing but calories and the sugary gloss of a perfectly assembled candy. But it’s delicious in, if this makes any sense, in the sincerity of its campiness. It’s campy, and it definitely knows it, but it’s never going to mock you for loving it. This movie is a guilty pleasure that doesn’t want you to feel a bit of guilt.
And, honestly, I didn’t. It’s silly at times, but it’s consistently fun. It never allows itself to get super dark or grim; when it does go there, it’s with the same teasing grin Emily uses to pry dark secrets out of Stephanie, assuring you all along that this is just for a little fun. Kendrick is really appealing as a protagonist and I’ve basically decided that I’m ready to watch an entire franchise built around Kendrick as a mommy vlogger who solves mysteries. The supporting cast is also quite good. Henry Golding is suitably callow as the mysterious husband of the Emily character. Linda Cardellini gets in a fantastic one-scene cameo as a mysterious figure from the past. Bashir Salahuddin really steals every single scene he’s in as Detective Summervile, a sneaky, passive-aggressive police officer; he seems to be relishing every moment he gets to be in the movie and he’s a real hoot. Kelly McCormack, Andrew Rannells & Aparna Nancherla are about the least likely and most wonderful Greek Chorus in history as a trio of local school “moms” that are forever turning up to snarkily comment on things. And what’s a campy thriller send-up with Jean Smart showing up to chew the scenery mightily late in the proceedings? Anyway, this isn’t a classic for all time or anything, but it’s a mightily entertaining film, anchored by a unique tone and a cast that’s down for anything as long as it’s fun. I mean, sure, the kids are pretty terrible and there’s a moment near the end that, even for the camp level of this movie, goes too far and crosses over into stupidity. But see it. Really, do. It’s a hoot. Just take my advice and thank me later. You can owe me one. 3 ½ stars.
tl;dr – gleeful, witty thriller is anchored by a true star turn by Kendrick and a fantastic gallery of supporting performers; campy, but not silly, it’s a pure pleasure with no guilt necessary. 3 ½ stars.