Anna Kendrick

The Day Shall Come

 

16/09/19

Once dubbed ‘the most evil man in Britain’ by a tabloid newspaper, Chris Morris arrives at a sold-out Cameo Cinema for the public screening of his first new movie in nine years, in advance of its October general release. In conversation afterwards, he proves to be anything but evil – a genial and entertaining fellow, who, like so many others, is just appalled by the everyday madness of the modern world. While it might not carry the devastating punch of Four Lions, his debut feature, The Day Shall Come is nevertheless a fascinating tale, inspired by real events – or, as the movie’s strapline prefers to describe it, ‘based on a hundred true stories.’

Moses Al Bey Al Shabazz (Marchánt Davis) is an impoverished preacher, living in the Miami projects where he runs The Church of Six Stars. He is constantly assuring his followers (all four of them) that one day they shall inherit the earth, which has been ‘accidentally dominated by the white man.’ But it’s hard to keep your followers on board when you’re feeding them on whatever the staff at Wendy’s are about to throw into the dumpster every night. Moses also believes that God and the Devil regularly converse with him through the medium of a duck, but this might be more symptomatic of the fact that he refuses to take the meds that prevent his delusions.

Unfortunately for Moses, ambitious special agent Kendra (Anna Kendrick) has him in her sights. It seems the FBI find it easier to meet their targets by entrapping hapless individuals than by catching actual terrorists in the act, and Moses is clearly a possible target. Kendra sets about trying to lure him aboard with offers of large amounts of cash and/or some plutonium. As Moses and his family are about to be evicted from their ‘farm’ for non-payment of rent, he finds the offer of $50,000 tempting – though it drives a wedge between him and his wife, Venus (Danielle Brooks). He’s not so keen on the plutonium, however, as he maintains a stringent ‘anti-weapon’ policy. Indeed, his follower’s only have one: a toy crossbow. As the planned sting steams headlong into ever more surreal waters, it’s clear there are no limits to the depths the FBI will plumb in order to fill their terrorist quota, and no barriers they won’t smash down in their haste to disassociate themselves from any suggestion of wrong-doing.

The Day Shall Come takes a little while to get into its stride but, once all the elements are in place, it delivers a large helping of caustic laughs, before heading in an unexpectedly poignant direction. Davis makes an auspicious debut as the film’s central character, a man who exudes likability even as he careers towards his own self-destruction, and there’s a nice performance by Kayvan Novak as FBI stooge, Reza.

It will be interesting to see what American audiences make of this film, but fans of the elusive Mr Morris will not be disappointed by what’s on offer here.

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

 

A Simple Favour

23/09/18

After the hysterical social media mauling that Paul Feig received over his all-woman remake of Ghostbusters, I fully expected him to navigate back towards the safer waters of his earlier material, but with A Simple Favour, he’s attempted something altogether trickier than the ‘women being outrageous’ comedies that made his reputation. It’s evident from the very start, as vintage French jazz oozes over the credits, that he’s trying to emulate one of those twisty-turny Gallic neo-noir thrillers of the 1950s – indeed, one of the characters even mentions Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques, without so much as raising an ironic eyebrow.

A Simple Favour is the story of Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), an endlessly sparky single mother, trying to be positive after the death of her husband and half-brother (in the same car crash), and channeling most of her spare time into the Vlogs she does, which offer cookery tips to hard-pressed ‘moms.’ As a result, she is soundly patronised by the other parents at the school and doesn’t really have any close friends.

Her life changes dramatically, however,  when she encounters Emily (Blake Lively), a mysterious mover and shaker in the fashion industry, who lives in the kind of dream home that Stephanie has always fantasised about, and who has the dreamboat husband to go with it. Sean (Henry Golding) is a failed-novelist-turned-college-lecturer, a man who is clearly putty in his wife’s manipulative hands.

One day, Emily asks Stephanie for the titular favour. Could she pick up her son from school and look after him until Emily comes for him? Stephanie readily accepts, seeing a way for the two of them to develop their friendship, but as the days pass by and there is not so much as a text message from Emily, Stephanie begins to realise that something is wrong. She decides to do a little digging… and discovers that her new friend has several dark and troubling secrets.

Of course, this being Paul Feig, he keeps the tone comic throughout, something which works well enough for the first two thirds of the film, as Kendrick and Lively strike verbal sparks off each other – but, in the final third, when the storyline strikes out into darker territory, he might have been better advised to ease off on the chuckles. The problem with this lightness of tone is that nothing ever feel convincingly threatening. The various revelations, as they drop, lose much of their power and, instead of suspending my disbelief – as I need to – I start to notice how wildly implausible much of the storyline is. I also can’t help thinking of an alternative twist, that I’m convinced, would work better.

Look, this isn’t by any means a terrible film. Kendrick is as delightful as ever, Lively is convincingly seductive and, as for Golding, he clearly has a huge future ahead of him. But this doesn’t quite come off. Nice try, but no cigar.

3.6 stars

Philip Caveney