Film Review – A Simple Favor
A Simple Favor
The trailer might tout it as being “from the darker side of director Paul Feig,” (Bridesmaids, The Heat) but rest assured, A Simple Favor is packed to the gills with laughs amidst all the luridness. Based on Darcey Bell‘s 2017 trashy beach read of the same name, Favor offers another opportunity for Feig to showcase a host of talented women front and center and then letting them go wild.
Anna Kendrick is the appropriately named Stephanie Smothers, an over-achieving mommy vlogger whose fuddy duddy wholesomeness makes the other parents of her son’s school cringe in morbid fascination and disgust. Her son’s friendship with another student leads to the introduction of Emily (Blake Lively), a no-nonsense PR magnate with wicked fashion sense (think 21st century Annie Hall) and attitude to spare. Bookish Stephanie is smitten and they’re soon arranging near-daily, martini-soaked play dates. This provides Stephanie a sexy glimpse of Emily’s relationship with husband Sean (Crazy Rich Asians‘ burgeoning superstar Henry Golding), a once-famous novelist. They’re a stunning couple who still make out like teenagers in a secluded parking lot.
The titular favor comes about when an apparent work emergency prompts Emily to ask Stephanie to come over and watch her son for a few hours. When a few hours turns into a few days, Stephanie, alongside a skeptical Sean, puts on her amateur detective cap and launches a crusade to track Emily down, much of it documented on her soon-to-go-mega-viral vlog (people love a good mystery, after all.)
So there it is, a purposely vague retelling of the movie’s events. For the second half of my review I shall do my damndest to convince you why it’s worth your time while attempting to avoid tipping my hat to its sultry smorgasbord of twists and turns..
Let’s start with the stellar supporting cast. Andrew Rannells (Girls) shines in his too-few scenes as a hilariously judgmental PTA dad, and is even given his own hero scene towards the film’s climax. We also get a standout single scene with Jean Smart as Emily’s boozy mother, who spills a few secrets of her own and sets Stephanie on her path.
When asked for my thoughts upon leaving the screening, I boiled it down to “Gone Girl with jokes.” I haven’t read Darcey Bell’s book from which this is adapted, but its tricky narrative and oodles upon oodles of psych-outs and reversals owes much to Gillian Flynn‘s potboiler, with a little The Girl On The Train thrown in for good measure.
Even when you think the movie has just about exhausted its reveals, they continue to pile up like cop cars in The Blues Brothers. By the third act you’re about worn out of this, and when you start to pull at the film’s numerous threads, it begins to fray under scrutiny. The cutting barbs and hilarious asides we’re given so much of in the first half slow their rolls to make room for sometimes clunky exposition and explanations. Still, though, the dynamic of Kendrick and Lively is not to be denied and Feig has managed to craft another firecracker here.