‘A Simple Favor’, a glossy, twisted, thriller
September 26, 2018
Stephanie is a ditzy, insecure, single-mom vlogger who is over-involved at her son’s school. Emily is a powerful PR director a fashion company who dulls the pain of suburban life with strong chilled martinis. When their paths cross a fast friendship ensues, but it’s only when Emily asks her new friend to watch her son while she goes on a trip that trouble comes.
Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy) steps back from the comedy world to tackle the thriller genre in his new film “A Simple Favor”. Led by Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, this bubbly noir seethes with mystery and a constantly twisting plot.
This movie’s strength lies in its dialogue. Snappy remarks and clever quips give Kenrick and Lively plenty to do and say as they lay out the foundation of a mystery. Their characters are well-developed even at the cost of slowing down the plot. At times, a trio of parents supplement plot points and add snarky remarks in the tradition of a Grecian chorus.
Kendrick briefly steps outside of her pigeonholed confident character-type and plays an initially weak and apologetic mom. However, her character quickly grows independent, seemingly bolstered by the mysterious strength of her friend Emily and fueled by the desire to uncover her secrets. Kendrick proves that she is more than just a talented singer who can act and uses this film to fully display her acting chops.
Lively steals the show with her fashionable suits and strong martinis. Class and control radiate off of her, creating a foreboding aura around her sleek identity. Her machiavellian scheming and impeccable taste leave her as a crowd favorite.
Henry Golding also sneaks in as the romantic interest for the women. Fresh off his success in “Crazy Rich Asians,” Golding is given little to do besides act sexy and reveal timely plot points to budding detective Stephanie.
Although the leading actress duo easily pulls off the setup, they are weighed down with the second acts dragging plot. Secrets are revealed, but never in a surprising or interesting way and there is never any real concern felt for Emily. Her safety is almost guaranteed, it’s just a matter of Stephanie poking around enough to discover it for herself.
Instead, the real pleasure is the sleek production, chic French soundtrack, and salacious romances that are spritzed throughout the film. These elements, along with a dizzying amount of twists, add a measure of fun to the traditionally dark and brooding thriller and polish over the weak story.
The big reveal is both explosive and contrived, unraveling any seriousness the film had built up for it. It’s as if Feig ran out of time and decided to simply toss the answer out to the audience and run for it. There is no shock and even though there are several betrayals and reveals, the culprit is too easy to catch.
While “A Simple Favor” could be called a mix between “Gone Girl” and “Mean Girls,” it achieves neither the thrill or humor of either, leaving the audience with an enjoyable, but largely forgettable film.