The Favor

1994, Movie, R, 97 mins

Review

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THE FAVOR is the simplest of five-handed farces from trusty Hollywood laborer Donald Petrie, whose MYSTIC PIZZA accidentally made a star out of Julia Roberts, and whose OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS made a nuisance out of Dana Carvey. This labored sex comedy is one of a clutch of shelved films released in 1994 by the reorganized Orion.

Kathy (Harley Jane Kozak) asks single friend Emily (Elizabeth McGovern) for a favor: since Emily's going to Denver on business, would she mind looking up Kathy's high school flame and sleeping with him? Married to nice-guy mathematician Peter (Bill Pullman), Kathy wants to make sure the life she's living isn't somehow a mistake. Meanwhile, Emily has dumped her long-suffering boyfriend, rising young painter Elliott (Brad Pitt), because of their age difference.

Emily returns from Denver raving about the boyfriend, Tom Andrews (Ken Wahl), which is the last thing Kathy needs to hear. She tries to jump-start the romance in her marriage, but Peter is oblivious, leading her to fantasize about an idealized Tom. Then Peter sees Kathy commiserating with Elliott at his gallery opening, and immediately assumes they're having an affair; Emily, meanwhile, fears she's pregnant by Elliott. When Kathy visits Elliott in his loft, Peter follows, believing he's confirmed his suspicions; actually, Kathy only wants to tell Elliott that he's a father. When Kathy tells Emily that she spilled the beans, Emily spitefully pretends the baby is Tom's. Kathy feels obligated to tell Tom in person--coincidentally, at the same time Elliott will be in Denver for a one-man show.

Kathy spies Elliott on the plane and tells him he's not the father of Emily's baby. Meanwhile, Peter hacks into the airline's computer and finds their names on the flight manifest to Denver. Kathy's room at the Hyatt isn't ready, so she leaves her bag in Elliott's room and heads to her reunion with Tom. Peter shows up, spots Kathy's bag, and punches Elliott in the nose. Elliott tells Peter about Tom, Peter calls Tom's place and Kathy answers, Peter dashes off to Tom's, and Emily shows up at Elliott's room. Once she's up to speed, she heads for Tom's as well.

Kathy arrives at Tom's cabin dressed to kill, and, as things are heating up in front of the fire, she tells him that Emily's pregnant with his child. Mr. Right instantly becomes Mr. Yeah, Right. Emily enters, reporting that Peter is on his way over, and demands they swap dresses, so that Kathy won't appear all dolled up for Tom. The hapless Elliott arrives to a find a houseful of semi-naked women. By the time Peter happens along, there is just too much confusion, and the characters finally talk everything out. Somehow, it all gets cleared up, Emily and Elliott reconcile, Kathy learns the grass isn't always greener, and Peter can get back to his equations. As they're all leaving, Tom gets his comeuppance in the form of a paternity suit out of left field.

The film contains no madcap chase scenes, mistaken bedroom identities, double takes, spit takes, bodies hiding under the bed, or uproarious hilarity--in fact, it's a foredoomed attempt to create a tasteful farce. Despite superficial trendiness, THE FAVOR is really a specimen of an anachronistic genre--the sniggering Hollywood sex comedy of the 50s, in which patriarchal authority is briefly subverted, only to be forcefully reasserted at curtain time. During the film's two years in limbo, Brad Pitt became a big star by discovering what his type was, and he's completely cast against it here. Ultimately, aside from the valiant efforts of pros like Elizabeth McGovern and the effortless Bill Pullman, THE FAVOR is virtually indistinguishable from recent direct-to-video exploitation comedies. (Adult situations, profanity.) leave a comment

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