Movie Review: A Simple Favor
The latest project from director Paul Feig hit theaters over the weekend with the release of A Simple Favor. Written by Jessica Sharzer and based on the novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, the film follows two women in an unlikely friendship that becomes complicated when one of them disappears. The film stars Blake Lively as Emily Nelson and Anna Kendrick as Stephanie Smothers. The film’s cast also includes the charming Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Linda Cardellini, Rupert Friend, and Jean Smart.
The film begins with mommy vlogger, Stephanie Smothers, recording a new episode for her vlog. While she is recording, she is receiving several questions about her missing friend, Emily. This prompts Stephanie to tell the story of how she and Emily met and the details of her disappearance to the new followers on her channel. The two met through their sons, and automatically it is clear that these women could not be more opposite. Emily is carefree, lives in an upscale house, drinks martinis after picking up her son, and works in the city in PR for a fashion company. Meanwhile, Stephanie is widowed, works from home, and aggressively volunteers for every parent related event at her son’s school. The two hang out several times in order for the boys to play, and one day Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son, Nicky, from school. Whenever Emily does not return to pick him up, though, Stephanie and Emily’s husband call the police. In searching for Emily, though, it quickly becomes clear that neither women are quite what they appear to be.
So, I feel like the first thing I should say about A Simple Favor is that it is insane. This is a pretty messed up tale with some intriguing yet complicated, messy characters. It is definitely not lacking in twists and turns, and the movie keeps you guessing until the very end. The tone is quite different from most of Paul Feig’s usual films, and while there is comedy present in the film, it is mostly a mystery-based thriller. There is a balancing act that Feig and his team attempt between the thriller and comedy aspects of the story, and I think it mostly succeeds in that venture. At the end of the day, it boils down to a game of wits and psychological warfare, and like most thrillers, the audience anxiously awaits to see which character will end up on top.
While I could go on about the twisted nature of this film, I think the real standout is the performances we receive from the cast. Blake Lively is truly stunning in this movie and not just physically with her character’s job at this fashion establishment. She is unsettling, unpredictable, eerie, and sometimes a little crazy through the flashback sequences alone. She completely succeeds in pulling off this mysterious air for her character, and I personally believe this is one of Lively’s best performances to date. Anna Kendrick is also quite good, and I think that she and Lively are an excellent pairing. Kendrick plays her part of exuberant mommy vlogger a little too well, and of course, she succeeds at giving us an awkward character that leads to several comedic moments. While the two leading ladies are clearly the ones that steal the show, Henry Golding is once again a charming, sophisticated, and slightly unpredictable leading man. In fact, all of the supporting cast add to the quality of the film and its twisty plot.
Overall, I would say that A Simple Favor is a different kind of film that keeps its audience intrigued the entire time. I would definitely call it a bit of a guilty pleasure with its bonkers plot and twisted characters. I think the filmmakers do an excellent job of not giving too much away in promotional materials, and while some of the developments are predictable, I found it to still have some surprising moments. Also, the film utilizes some sequences where the characters tell an altered story through voiceover while the actual events play on the big screen, and I thought those moments were used very well. At the end of the day, I think that anyone who enjoys a Gone Girl-ish mystery thriller will enjoy a viewing of A Simple Favor in theaters.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.