A Simple Favor is directed by Paul Feig. The film stars Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Darcey Bell.
Stephanie is a widowed single mother living in a suburban town with her young son who hosts an online cooking show. She’s bubbly, happy, naive, and so helpful to her son’s school functions that the teachers and fellow parents are practically annoyed with her willingness to help! She meets a fellow mother in Emily, a successful manager at a fashion company who is married to a novelist. Despite their radical differences, the two women develop a friendship, but when Emily doesn’t show up after Stephanie picks up her child from school and isn’t seen for days, she becomes concerned, even though people in her life claim this behavior isn’t uncommon for her. What is the nature of Emily’s mysterious disappearance, and is there more than meets the eye here?
Part laugh-out-loud witty comedy, part suspense thriller, A Simple Favor is hard to lump under any one film genre. Fortunately, this isn’t a weakness. The movie’s has a razor-sharp script with plenty of laughs and a mystery which will keep the audience guessing. The odd mash-up of genres may sound like something which will leave you skeptical; I know I was. But the film won me over with its entertaining and intriguing cast of characters, new take on an old premise, and plenty of shocking revelations. The plot twists and mysteries won’t necessarily surprise everyone, but it’s a surprisingly good film.
Easily the greatest strength of A Simple Favor is its cast. Anna Kendrick shines throughout as the overly bubbly Stephanie, who feels like something of a holdover stereotypical 1950s housewife. The chemistry between her and Blake Lively’s Emily is the highlight of the first half of the film, resulting in some hilarious and at times shocking moments! The two are perfect foils for one another. When the film comes full circle, we get to see these actresses doing what they do best, and everyone here is perfect for the material at hand.
What truly surprises about the movie is its mash-up of genres. This isn’t the first movie to ever try to combine thrilling suspense with a witty comedic script, but it’s certainly one of the most memorable movies of its kind in recent years. Your attention will be on the film at all times as the mystery unravels itself, but at the same time, you’ll find yourself quoting the film’s best one-liners for weeks to come.
If there are weaknesses in the otherwise superior film, they’re the overlong run time and the lack of screen time for Emily and Stephanie’s children. With a run time of nearly two hours straight, a good 20 minutes worth of edits could have streamlined the final product; it does lose some momentum in its third act despite keeping audience interest. It would also have benefited the movie to show more of the film’s disastrous events from the perspective of the kids, who steal the show in what few scenes they get together. Casting them aside feels like a wasted opportunity.
A Simple Favor isn’t perfect, but it sure entertains. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively give the performances of their careers here, and the mash-up of genres works far better than it has the right to. It’s hilarious, it’s suspenseful, and above all, it’s a good film. Strongly recommended!
Rating: Three stars out of four.
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