A Simple Favor
Starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Directed by Paul Feig
Reviewed by Michael Dalton
Whether they’re deadly serious or deadly serious and mixed with comedy, we’re so acquainted with the current style of glossy American mysteries that we sit there in the dark looking for the tricks. In Paul Feig’s new film A Simple Favor, which is no exception, we meet a beautiful, successful, sexually adventurous, martini-loving woman. Oh is she beautiful, and lord is she sexual. She befriends a mousy young lady, a mommy vlogger, at the school their sons attend. She quickly learns this sweet little thing is capable enough, naïve enough, and can be trusted to look after her son when she’s otherwise occupied. Soon after she vanishes and then turns up dead. Such is Feig’s style here, funny, playful, and superficial (these loopy shenanigans could only happen in an American thriller), we get a handle quickly that something is not right. We see her fished out of a lake, dead to the world with her arm freckled with track marks from shooting heroin (wait, this delectable selfie-ready stunner was a junkie?). The other parents are gossiping and the innocent young lady is upset but not so bereaved she can’t wrap herself around the grieving hunk of husband she’s now arranging the funeral with. What is going on here? Can we believe everything we see?
A Simple Favor is delicious trash with plot holes big enough you’ll wonder how much cement it would take to fill them. Blake Lively is Emily, the dangerously camera-shy tootsie (I didn’t know whether or not to laugh at her hey-look-me-over wardrobe), Henry Golding is Sean, her quietly studly husband, an author who hasn’t written a book in ten years, but best of all, and the movie would be dead on arrival without her, it features Anna Kendrick as Stephanie, the young woman. Criminally perky, intensely likable, and no fool (she’s focussed like a laser beam), she is a hoot as a single of mother of one with a secret or two of her own to hide and now plunged into a mystery only she can solve; long ago she did something unsavoury, and the mysterious repercussions of it add a pleasing ingredient. What a character!!! She’ll volunteer for any and every activity at her son’s school (she needs to be harnessed by the staff from helping Too Much) and her video blog is so pastel sunglasses are essential. Kendrick’s irresistible. She’s such an appealing and intelligent actress, she can add a few more layers without us noticing.
This motley trio are all deeply flawed (it badly wants to be neo noir but doesn’t quite make it) and just who is playing who is what Feig wants us to rack our brains about. There’s something addictive about this little potboiler. You know you’re being played but you can’t resist going along for the ride. Just don’t forget the cement.