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A Simple Favor

We have reached the time of year where the cinematic schedule becomes a bit sketchy. The summer blockbuster season has officially come to a close, and we are still a month or two out from when the studios start releasing their award season hopefuls in earnest.

 For these reasons, the box office results can be a tepid, but it also allows for some lesser-known productions to carve a niche and find an audience. While there were some big-budget entries like PREDATOR and the family-friendly THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS released in September, there was also a sleek neo-noir that proved that surprises can come in many forms.

A SIMPLE FAVOR stars the infectiously likable Anna Kendrick as Stephanie Smothers, a stay-at-home mom who is the star of a moderately successful vlog. She is the type of over achieving matriarch who, much to the chagrin of her fellow parents, volunteers for more school events than she needs to, and still finds a way to make friendship bracelets and put together a multi-course meal on a nightly basis. When she strikes up a friendship with the smooth and savage Emily Townsend (Blake Lively) it seems to be a union doomed to failure. On the surface, the two women couldn’t be any different. Whereas Stephanie has a swear jar at home and apologizes profusely over the most trivial of matters, Emily swigs martinis in the middle of the day and dabbles in threesomes. 

Though some of the other parents believe that Emily is merely taking advantage of Stephanie’s oblivious kindness and using her as a free nanny service, to the audience, it seems as if the feelings the two share may be authentic. They drink gin and confess some of their darkest secrets to one another, spending more time together than they do apart. For this reason, Stephanie doesn’t think twice when Emily asks her to watch her son, Nicky after something comes up at work. As the hours roll on and Stephanie cannot reach Emily, she grows concerned. Hours turn into days, and once Stephanie’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) arrives home from a business trip in London, the two call the police to file a missing persons report.

Backed by a snappy French-inspired soundtrack, A SIMPLE FAVOR takes a number of twists and turns throughout its jaunty 117 minute run time, and for the most part, they are all pretty fun. Part VERTIGO, part DIABOLIQUE, and part DOUBLE IDEMNITY, it’s like a Hitchcockian noir for the digital age. Director Paul Feig, who is best known for comedies like BRIDESMAIDS, SPY, and THE HEAT, keeps things moving along at a brisk pace, and, with the help of the affable Kendrick, provides some laughs amidst the drama and mystery. Even when things start to get a bit over-the-top, they somehow work, and this could largely be because no one involved seems to take the production more seriously than it was meant to be. In lesser hands, the film could have crashed and burned, but Feig and his cast consistently keep the jovial level entertainment alive from start to finish.

Feig’s production is sleek and beautiful, and the chemistry between his two leading ladies is absolutely superb. As the film progresses and Stephanie makes increasingly questionable decisions, you still remain on her side, despite a growing suspicion that there may be more amiss than what appears on the surface. Meanwhile, when Emily goes missing, her void is definitely felt on the screen. The give and take between the women serves as the highlight of the production, and as the mystery unfolds, you long for the opportunity to see them share a scene once more. Serving as an entertaining diversion from the typical thrillers that tend to permeate the genre, A SIMPLE FAVOR may not be the most complex of mysteries, but is certainly a tale well worth delving into.

A Simple Favor: GRADE B-

RATED: R

RUN TIME: 1h 47min

GENRE: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

STARRING:  Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding

DIRECTORs: Paul Feig

Writers:  Jessica Sharzer, Darcey Bell

A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny USA for allowing me to attend this month’s film.  

Brian Miller
Film Critic
Based out of Central New York, Brian Miller is a film critic who works in television, radio, and print. Providing passionate and energetic takes on every movie he sees, he looks for the best in a movie, not the worst.