The Australian - - ARTS -

Ladies in Black (PG) Steeped in nos­tal­gia and brim­ming with in­sights and re­minders into ways in which Aus­tralia was be­gin­ning to change in the mid­dle of the 20th cen­tury, vet­eran Bruce Beres­ford’s Ladies in Black is a thor­oughly en­joy­able adap­ta­tion of Madeleine St John’s book and one of the best main­stream Aus­tralian films of the past cou­ple of years. Adapted from the source ma­te­rial by Beres­ford and pro­ducer Sue Mil­liken, this ex­quis­ite movie has all the hall­marks of a labour of love. The prin­ci­pal set­ting is Goode’s, a de­part­ment store in the cen­tre of Syd­ney — David Jones is ob­vi­ously the in­spi­ra­tion. It’s De­cem­ber and the es­tab­lish­ment is filled with Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tions and ea­ger cus­tomers. The busy per­ma­nent staff mem­bers have been aug­mented for the hol­i­day sea­son by teenage part-timers, most of whom are work­ing for the first time. Ladies in Black may be seen mis­tak­enly as lightweight or slight; it isn’t. It brims with sub­text and nu­ance and at the same time suc­ceeds in be­ing a thor­oughly en­joy­able entertainment. DAVID STRAT­TON

A Sim­ple Favour (M) A Sim­ple Favour is a break­through film for Amer­i­can di­rec­tor Paul Feig. It’s based on the re­cent de­but novel of Amer­i­can writer Darcey Bell. But the big­gest favours come from the stars, Anna Ken­drick (pic­tured be­low) and Blake Lively, who de­liver two of the best lead ac­tress per­for­mances I’ve seen in a while. A Sim­ple Favour opens with a 30some­thing woman, Stephanie (Ken­drick), do­ing a cook­ing video blog. Stephanie tells her view­ers that some­thing un­set­tling has hap­pened in her life. She has been mind­ing an­other 10-year-old boy, the son of a new friend, Emily (Lively). The trou­ble is, Emily, af­ter ask­ing Stephanie to do this sim­ple favour, hasn’t been seen for five days. We then cut back to Stephanie meet­ing Emily, who is beau­ti­ful and has a hand­some nov­el­ist hus­band

(Henry Gold­ing). This is a movie where talk­ing about the plot must end now. All you need to know is that two women meet. They are dif­fer­ent on the out­side, but who knows what’s within. Then one of them goes miss­ing. Is ei­ther of them telling the truth? “Se­crets are like mar­garine,’’ Stephanie says in her open­ing vlog. “Easy to spread, but bad for the heart.” STEPHEN ROMEI

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