A Simple Favor, 2018.
Directed by Paul Feig.
Starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, and Andrew Rannells.
A woman seeks to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of her best friend.
Marketed as the “darker side of Paul Feig”, A Simple Favor follows the story of widowed mum Stephanie (Kendrick) who’s life gets turned upside down when her new friend Emily (Blake Lively) goes missing. Whilst the plot involves, murder, mystery and for some reason incest; it’s more of a hybrid comedy thriller than out and out Gone Girl pastiche.
There are many moments throughout A Simple Favor that are laugh out loud funny and this is largely down to how likeable Anna Kendrick is as an actress. Her character Stephanie Smothers (a name that’s a bit on the nose), is the quintessentially perfect mum who volunteers for everything and runs her own mummy vlog about baking etc. Almost a caricature of suburban life, she’s ludicrously upbeat and so desperately lonely that you can’t help but cringe for her. She bungles through her investigation into Emily’s disappearance and yet is utterly charming in all of her flaws.
More than holding her own is a career best performance from Blake Lively as Emily. Twisted, mysterious and with a killer wardrobe, she’s perfect as the “cool city mum” with a dark past. Her fuck the world attitude balances perfectly with Kendrick’s performance. Although not on screen that much, when she does appear she shakes up the narrative and has a blast while she’s doing it.
Along for the ride is Henry Golding as Emily’s hapless husband Sean who doesn’t get much to do but has easy chemistry with both the leads. A stand out is Andrew Rannells as Darren, an over the top dad at the school who injects bursts of comedy that are more in line with Feig’s usual brand of movie.
As enjoyable as A Simple Favor is, it does seem to be having an identity crisis. Part thriller, part comedy and part noir, it’s unclear whether Feig was aiming for a genre pastiche or if he’s just not comfortable going all out thriller. Based on a novel by Darcey Bell – that I haven’t read – it could just be that her novel is mixing genres unevenly and therefore the adaptation is unbalanced, or Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer have struggled to translate the tone to screen.
For all its flaws, A Simple Favor is a fun and twisty tale that works if you ignore the plot holes and just enjoy the performances from two leads.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★