Review - 'A Simple Favor'
Have you ever wondered what Gone Girl would be like if you draped it with the comedic window dressing of Bridesmaids? No? Yeah, me neither, but the result of that seemingly unholy matrimony transpired before my very eyes and you know what? It kind of worked!
In A Simple Favor, socially awkward Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) begins to strike up a friendship with Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) a flawed but enigmatic woman whose son goes to the same school as hers. After Emily asks Stephanie for “a simple favor”, she disappears. Stephanie then takes it upon herself to find out the truth behind her disappearance.
A Simple Favor is directed by Paul Feig, who for me has been a pretty hit-or-miss director thus far. In terms of theatrical releases he hit with Bridesmaids, missed (slightly) with The Heat, hit again with Spy, then dropped the ball hard with the Ghostbusters remake. So I suppose it makes sense then that A Simple Favor rebounds a bit, though, I don’t think it quite reaches the top tier of his work. A Simple Favor has a couple of fundamental issues. These problems stem from wildly inconsistent characters and a plot that when you really stop to think about it, doesn’t make much logical sense from any standpoint. If this movie weren’t fun, it could have been a disaster. Fortunately, it’s an incredibly witty film that throws a constant barrage of amusing situations and character interactions at the viewer, thus ensuring that boredom never sets in, and that you aren’t scrutinizing motives and plot inconsistencies too seriously.
Feig is also adept at managing a consistent tone. The film juggles serious moments with awkward situational comedy in ways I hardly ever see. I was amazed at how fluidly the narrative of the film was able to change tracks without jarring me or making me feel like two completely different movies were being rammed together unceremoniously.
The icing on the cake is Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. These two play off of each other so well in their scenes together. Anna Kendrick doesn’t play too far out of her typical character type; As Stephanie she’s dorky and charming, but still open to having a good time if it means breaking some rules. Lively plays the bad girl who doesn’t give a sh*t. She’s a hard drinker and isn’t afraid of exposing her son to her bad habits, but all the while you can tell there is something deeper happening behind her eyes. The problem here is that these two don’t really get a lot of screen-time together, and when they aren’t together, the film isn’t quite as fun. In addition to this, characters begin to behave in ways that just don’t make sense with how they were initially established, especially Stephanie. Fortunately, the insanely charismatic Henry Golding, who plays Emily’s husband, Sean, is able to pick up some of the slack.
A Simple Favor manages to meld two genres together in a surprisingly effective way, and there was never a time where a dark moment of violence couldn’t play alongside a goofy joke. While the characters make some unbelievable decisions and the plot doesn’t come together in a convincing way, the ride from start-to-finish is still a fun one.