Director: Paul Fieg
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine
IMDB Rating: 7.3/10
Seveno Rating: 8/10
A film that manages to bring together impeccable comedic timing, thrilling mystery, enviable fashion, and two beautiful and complex female leads is rare. But A Simple Favor does all of this, and throws in a seductive French soundtrack for good measure, to create a film that captivates audiences, while at the same time managing to keep them laughing.
Stephanie Smothers (Kendrick) is the image of the perfect mum, running a mummy-vlog channel while simultaneously managing to over-achieve in all things mum. Emily Nelson (Lively) and her are brought together by their young sons, Miles (Satine) and Nicky (Ho), and despite their opposing characters and lives, they become friends over afternoon margaritas and secret-sharing. When Emily suddenly goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself, not only to look after her distraught husband, Sean Townsend (Golding), and confused son, but also to try to uncover exactly what happened to the mysterious and glamorous figure of Emily. As time passes, more of both of these womens’ dark secrets are uncovered, and the relationships between the three (Emily, Stephanie, and Sean) become more convoluted and strained.
Paul Fieg, famous for directing Bridesmaids, takes Darcy Bell’s suspense novel and imbues it with this offbeat and outrageous sense of humour, which leaves audience members confused as to how they’re supposed to feel. The minor characters provide some light hearted comic relief (Darren and his mum-gang really break up the more intense Stephanie-Emily-Sean narrative), but by also allowing Kendrick and Lively to channel their natural chemistry and sense of humour, the thriller plot is coloured by a comedic tone.
Not only does the integrity of the plot stand up as a mystery, with all the tense and suspenseful moments any audience member could ever want, but is also has the added element of quality comedy
Altogether, the film isn’t particularly cinematically interesting. Visually it is beautiful, primarily thanks to the modern architecture of Emily and Sean’s home, and the extravagant simplicity of Emily’s wardrobe in contrast with Stephanie’s more colourful modesty. On the whole, it really fits the mould of a modern, female-lead mystery – think Gone Girl, or even Atomic Blond– so nothing groundbreaking there. But what really makes A Simple Favor stand outis the incongruous seductiveness of Emily and Sean’s life contrasted with the homeliness of Stephanie’s, and the absurdity of the entire situation.
Lively and Kendrick carry the film, with their chemistry and ability to bounce off of one another adding an element of comfort and ease throughout, allowing the comedy to flow without feeling awkward or out of place.
Aside from my own love of the two lead actresses, what I really loved about the film was the soundtrack. Sophisticated and sexy, it perfectly mirrored Lively’s character, and emphasised the juxtaposition between the two female leads. Not only this, but choosing a soundtrack that, conventionally, doesn’t fit either of the genres this film conforms to, impossibly somehow manages to marry the two genres seamlessly.
It’s twisted and dark and tense, but amusing and awkward and fun – something that up until I’d seen the film I didn’t think could be done properly. As someone who really wasn’t a fan of Bridesmaid’s, I was hesitant, but Fieg’s ridiculousness in his sense of humour matches the utter ridiculousness of the plot, and the lives and characters of these two women. While there are certainly elements of the plot which are predictable, the number of twists and turns keeps audience members on their toes, and I feel that the quality of the comedy makes it easier to forgive the farfetched nature of the plot.