3.5 out of 5 stars (Above Average)
A Simple Favor may well be the most ambitious and outrageous film so far this year. Director Paul Feig (Spy, The Heat) has outdone himself here, crafting a darkly comedic and endlessly twisty thriller with wonderful performances from Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, the latter of which has never been this unhinged before. A Simple Favor combines the chick flick, pitch-black comedy, and mystery-thriller with surprising finesse, making for one of the most entertaining movies of the year. I have decided not to place the trailer here so you can go in as cold as possible, as I did. Trust me, it’s worth it.
Straight-laced single mom Stephanie Smothers (Kendrick once again showing great range) has two things going for her in life: her devotion to her son, and a cooking vlog. Despite the snickers of the other parents, Stephanie is cool as a cucumber with her routine life, without a desire to change. Kendrick is absolutely wonderful at playing this lovably mousy and pathetic character, making her endearing to us rather than irritating.
Stephanie’s life is thrown for a loop when she meets the profane and erratic Emily Nelson (a fantastic Lively). They become fast friends, sharing afternoon martinis and their deepest secrets until Emily disappears one day. Now, Stephanie and Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding, Crazy Rich Asians) must piece together what happened to her, taking them both down a rabbit hole of outrageousness I won’t dare spoil here.
A Simple Favor is one of the most memorable films I’ve seen all year. Kendrick and Lively have great chemistry together, making it easy to buy their fast friendship as well as Stephanie’s determination to find her friend. You’ve never seen Lively this, well, lively, before, and she is having a devil of a time playing this character. Kendrick also impresses, taking a character that could have been extremely unlikable or annoying and making you feel sympathy towards her while still laughing at her on occasion. Golding is good as the husband, but doesn’t leave as large of an impression. While no one will win Oscars for their work here, these are currently my favorite performances in a Paul Feig film to date.
Feig’s direction and Jessica Sharzer’s script are well-matched for each other, balancing the comedic and thriller aspects surprisingly well and providing something for everyone: A little bit of a chick flick, a little bit of dark comedy, and a little bit of a twisty mystery. Trust me when I say that you will have no idea where this film is going based on its opening minutes, and if you do, you’ll enjoy how the twists are executed. I went in knowing very little about the film’s plot besides it being a mystery of some kind, and I suggest you see this with as little knowledge as possible. Trust me, you don’t want anything spoiled.
A Simple Favor balances its tones and genres easily, shifting from chick flick to darkly comic thriller with surprising sharpness. Paul Feig’s direction perfectly complements Jessica Sharzer’s script, and the leads are absolute dynamite. If you want a twisty thriller and don’t mind a bit of profane or raunchy humor, this is one Simple Favor you’ll definitely want to accept.
Rated R for Sexual Content and Language Throughout, Some Graphic Nude Images, Drug Use, and Violence