A Simple Favour review: The female of the species has never been more deadly than in Paul Feig’s latest offering.
Based on the novel by Darcy Bell, A Simple Favour weaves a fantastical telenovela-worthy tale of murder, deception and infidelity. Mommy blogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a single mum whose over enthusiasm for volunteering has her the butt of the other parent’s jokes. This changes after a chance encounter with the school glamazon mother Emily, A PR maven for a prolific designer. The pair begin to bond over a few martinis and strike-up an unlikely friendship. Then Emily disappears without a trace, and Stephanie finds herself compelled to solve the mystery; she soon finds herself drawn into a web of misdirection and intrigue.
To say more would ruin the viewing experience for those not familiar with the novel, but one should expect more twists, turns, and revelations than a roller-coaster. It’s not the most original of stories, but it is told in a compelling way. The story, at least initially, races along at a whirlwind speed, the whole first half passing by in the blink of an eye. This pacing drops off slightly during the second half, and the story could benefit from being maybe ten minutes shorter. That being said, Feig crams in so much unexpected comedy that all is almost forgiven.
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We’ve always known that Kendrick can play funny, and as awkward mouse mother Stephanie, she’s brilliant, bringing all the trademark Kendrick charm. What is a surprise though, is Blake Lively, she simply sizzles as screen siren Emily. It’s not often that Lively gets to let loose and showcase her full range, but here she flaunts her acting prowess with glee. Her character Emily could also give Deadpool a run for his money in the potty-mouth arena. The women play against each other beautifully, their chemistry oozes off of the screen. In a similar way to Stephanie being drawn to, and desperate to fit in, with Emily, audience members will want to befriend both.
This is another movie from Feig that celebrates its females; the men don’t get much of a look in, but Dustin Milligan (Schitt’s Creek) has a small, but pivotal, role that you won’t easily forget. Youngster Ian Ho is also a little scene-stealer as Emily’s son Nicky.
As a hard film to tie down to a specific genre or audience, A Simple Favour may struggle to find its feet at theatrical release. Imagine a more complex, more upmarket, version of something like Wild Things and you’re in the right tonal ballpark. Feig mixes elements of comedy, mystery, thriller, and drama together into one big mixing pot. With so many competing elements, running alongside a forever winding tale wrapped-up in such a glossy package,the film ultimately leaves the viewer feeling rather cold by its conclusion. Whilst our characters are fun and engaging, there isn’t really much for people to connect to on an emotional level and the viewer is left more as a bystander than a co-pilot.
Plot and pacing niggles aside, A Simple Favour is a lot of fun. The jokes come thick and fast from one of the darker veins of comedy – think Heathers and The Rules of Attraction. The production design is stunning and will likely leave you with house envy; the costumes are high-fashion through and through. This is a super slick, super stylised and super rich world which is just far enough removed from reality that the over the top drama doesn’t feel far-fetched. In many ways it could be seen as a more adult version of Lively’s old TV series Gossip Girl, what with all the fashion, deception and luxury.
A Simple Favour review by Kat Hughes, September 2018.
A Simple Favour opens across the UK on Thursday 20th September 2018.