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Kip's perfect life is put in jeopardy when the waitress with whom he's having a casual fling is accidentally killed in their motel room. Desperate, he turns to childhood friend and loser, Marvin, to help get rid of the body. Marvin agrees which begins the unraveling of their friendship and ultimately leads both to murderous acts they never thought themselves capable of.Written by
Leslie Wimmer Osborne
There is an old maxim: "A friend helps you move. A good friend helps you move a body." That's the basis of Favor, a new film from writer/director Paul Osborne (Official Rejection, Ten 'til Noon) that had its world premiere at the 2013 Phoenix Film Festival and won the award for Best Screenplay.
The movie begins as its poster suggests. Successful advertising pitch man Kip Desmond (Blayne Weaver) pays a late-night visit to a childhood friend, unemployed couch slouch Marvin Croat (Patrick Day). The small talk is awkward. Kip obviously has moved up in the world and left Marvin behind. And Marvin is self-conscious about it, repeatedly apologizing that he can only offer Kip beer, not scotch.
Kip finally gets to the point: He's been carrying on an extramarital fling with a waitress named Abby (Rosalie Ward). Following sex in a motel room earlier in the evening, he says, she started pressing him for some commitment. During the ensuing argument, he pushed her; her head slammed into a nightstand; and she was dead on the floor. Now he's asking his old buddy Marvin – who always was down for anything – to help him dispose of her body.
Kip drives Marvin to the motel and shows him the body, then they return to Marvin's house for materials. Marvin says he has a good idea of what needs to be done and tells Kip to go home to his wife because it would be suspicious if he were gone all night. Marvin assures Kip he'll clean up the mess.
The first half of the film is somewhat predictable. In the morning light, we see Marvin holding a shovel and staring at a newly filled grave in the desert. A little later, Kip is at home with his wife, Claire (Cheryl Nichols), lying about how busy he is with work and promising to make it up to her. But that's not why he promises to make her breakfast while she showers. He does that because he's glanced out the window, seen Marvin sitting out on the curb and needs her to go a away for a few minutes.
Marvin is acting oddly, expressing concern about who will feed the dead woman's cat. Kip just wants him to go away.
And therein lies the essence of Kip.
He used Abby, who was beneath him in more ways than one, then is concerned only with disposing of her – literally.
Now he wants Marvin to go away, telling him they need to lie low and that he'll be in touch in a few days.
Marvin agrees, but keeps showing up: at Kip's home; at Kip's office; at Kip's favorite diner. Marvin may be a schlub, but he isn't a fool. He's noticed Kip's lack of empathy for the cat, not to mention for Abby. Kip's only regret is that the incident briefly threatened his executive lifestyle.
When Friends Grow Apart
Marvin creates an escalating series of dilemmas in which Kip must choose between a lifestyle that has no place for Marvin and appeasing Marvin to protect that lifestyle. I could see this coming because of the movie's basic premise, but at some point the plot veers off the tracks in a dark but powerful way. It strips Kip to the bone, asking him – and by extension the audience – what we value most and what we're willing to sacrifice to protect that.
During the post-premiere Q&A, Osborne said one of his inspirations for Favor was the rise of Facebook. The social media platform has led users to retain, or even renew, relationships that previously would have died on the vine.
Most of us have that one friend from our past who's never really moved on. We maintain the friendship out of loyalty or nostalgia, even though we no longer have anything in common with the person. We can live with the occasional online update. But what if we found that person sitting on the curb in front of our home?
Day does an amazing job of making Marvin relatable even as he grows into a monster, kind of like the plant – "Feed me, Seymour!" – in Little Shop of Horrors. Day is director of the Young Actors Space, a school in Los Angeles for child and teen performers. During the Q&A, he said his biggest challenge in playing Marvin was figuring out how to make the audience like Marvin, at least on some level. Early in Favor, Marvin appears pleased that Kip needs him for something – anything. That gives credibility to the subsequent rage when he realizes just how little Kip values him.
Weaver does an nice job as Kip but had less of a challenge than Day. A major point of the film, after all, was the discovery of just how shallow Kip is. For most of the film, he seemed to channel a young, pre-drugs Jeff Conaway (Grease, Taxi, Babylon 5). In the final scene, however, he offers a piercing image of Kip as a man utterly devoid of conscience.
Favor may focus on a relationship between strong male characters, but a couple of actresses deliver spot-on performances. Nichols and Christina Rose – as Kip's wife and office assistant, respectively – are strong women puzzled by Marvin's sudden ubiquity, and even more so by Kip's inexplicable indulgence of it. Their portrayals of annoyance and confusion escalate along with Marvin's intrusiveness. In a metaphorical sense, of course, they reinforce social chasm that has formed between the childhood friends. The women are attainable for Kip, but out of Marvin's league.
Stuart J. Robinson practices writing, editing, media relations and social media through his business, Phoenix-based Lightbulb Communications.
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