Opens Friday at the Red Vic.
As an unconscious parody of everything that's wrong with Indiewood, Eva Aridjis' The Favor is brilliant. Otherwise, it's an unwatchable nightmare that brought back bad memories of NYU screenwriting classes. What's the matter with Johnny (Ryan Donowho)? He smokes, deals pot, and moodily plays bass alone in his room — so he must be hurting. With mom dead, in comes her high-school sweetheart, Lawrence (Frank Wood), to save Johnny from the foster system. Lawrence is his own stereotype — a creepy Kevin Pollak doppelganger who, after 25 years, still hasn't gotten over being dumped by Johnny's mom. Together, they forge a brave emotional path through Bayonne, New Jersey — helpfully telegraphed in advance by a science teacher, who teaches everyone the meaning of symbiosis. Gorgeously shot by Andrij Parekh (the DP prodigy of Half Nelson), The Favor benefits from game actors, who give the hopelessly schematic script the rhythms of conversation. But no actor can sell a line like "I was thinking of going to the grocery store" as anything other than the awkward first draft it is. Bad suburban houses, the thawing of the repressed, the taming of the teen-boy shrew — it's all here, neatly accounted for.