Secrets, suspense, martinis, gorgeous women, and someone missing. That is what’s been swirling around in Paul Feig’s latest film A Simple Favor, based on Darcey Bell’s 2017 novel of the same name. With any movie revolving around a mystery, it’s gonna have its fair share of moments that’s gonna leave the audience in shock with what just happened. Does it benefit in A Simple Favor?
What’s the Story?: Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a mommy vlogger in a small town where she meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) through both of their sons. After she asked Stephanie for a “simple favor”, her new best friend has suddenly disappeared. With the help of Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding, Crazy Rich Asians), she’s doing whatever it takes to uncover the truth to find out what happened to her friend.
When you think about the well-dressed Paul Feig, your mind quickly makes him associated with female-driven films, whether it’s the hilarity that was Bridesmaids to the surprisingly good, yet highly divisive reboot of Ghostbusters (I personally enjoyed it. Sue me.). But when the news came about a year ago talking about how he’s gonna be directing a thriller starring my future wife Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in the lead roles, that honestly sounds like something that shouldn’t be in his wheelhouse. Even so, I do like him as a director, and I was wondering what his take on a Hitchcockian-type thriller might look like. I will say that the trailers (the first two) didn’t do anything for me. But, I trust Feig to handle this. And it looks like he succeeded since A Simple Favor was pretty solid from a first viewing standpoint.
You gotta give credit to Feig for pulling this through. For a movie like this, it doesn’t take itself too seriously and you feel like it’s aware. Even for his style that’s shown through here it’s pretty slick and well-shot almost feeling like a classy neo-noir with that includes french pop songs in the mix.
Let’s push my bias agenda for my celebrity crush Anna Kendrick aside for this review and actually talk about her performance. She puts on this mom role that may seem too charming but you can kind of see behind those walls that there’s something in her mind that makes her wholesome. Since we all know her so well, it’s no secret that she can play this bubbly type of person who not only wants to be the perfect mother to her son but trying to know what’s happening. And can I just say when her name shows up during the opening credits I had to smile?
Lively is the kind of cool mom in this story. But even though she’s presented as this mother with a cool job, certain issues, and a really fabulous wardrobe (my compliments to the costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus), it doesn’t seem like she like anybody to know who she really is deep down. Normally when it comes to Lively in films, she’s very hit or miss where she can be in a good movie (The Town) or terrible (Green Lantern). But by far, she quite possibly gives the best performance of her career.
Going into the chemistry between Kendrick and Lively, that was really entertaining, and I can tell that they got along with each other while filming and when they’re together in interviews promoting the film. They play mothers that are nearly polar opposites of each other who afternoon drink and talk about their secrets that have been hidden in their minds. This unexpectedly forms an unlikely bond between the two of them. When see first have this conversation with each other at Emily’s house, it could be labeled as awkward when Stephanie keeps saying “sorry” about everything.
And that’s where we want to untold what this mystery turns out to be in the process. I know I mutual friend who read the book and said it was okay. This does make me wanna at least read half of the book because screenwriter Jessica Sharzer (Nerve) was going for some kind of Gone Girl/ Search Party vibe that’s contributing along. Not to say that this is in similar taste to Gone Girl, or The Girl on the Train, thank God, but it got its sharp twists and turns along the way that nobody would see coming. And I think it also paints a different portrait of the perfect suburban mom that isn’t realistic but we buy into it.
Coming off the success of the surprise hit last month with Crazy Rich Asians, Golding gives a good performance once again. Realizing that she also doesn’t know much about Emily as much as he thought. Since he doesn’t know where she’s gone, he’s been in the hands of Emily by keeping him and his son company when he’s trying to handle this situation and work at the same time. This is only his second big movie this year. A huge star on our hands.
Even though this is labeled as a mystery, this has its fair share of humorous moments. I was surprised with some of the jokes that were in here and it had Feig’s style of comedy that didn’t take itself too far. There wasn’t any moment that’s on the ground hilarious, but it’s like a “should we laugh at this” type of laughs that’s to be expected.
Going into the problems that I certainly had with it, I felt that there was a couple of twists that are presented were a little predictable, which I wish I could stop doing when it’s these kinds of films. And it does feel too long, and that’s mainly because I felt the pacing was off in some places when we see Stephanie trying to investigate. But that’s just me.
In conclusion, A Simple Favor doesn’t bring anything new to the table in the mystery/thriller genre, but it still ends up being a satisfying, yet sexy good time. If you were like me and didn’t know how this was gonna play out because of the marketing, you might have a good time with it. It’s a great thing that this didn’t come off as a parody of the genre but instead makes for fans of these talents knowing what they’re in for. This is something I could check out again when it comes out on Blu-ray.
A Simple Favor turned to be a surprisingly enjoyable mystery that has well-balanced dark comedy, uncertain twists and turns, and an intriguing story thanks to director Paul Feig turn to this genre and memorable performances from the lovely Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.