For the best part of this year, there’s been a substantial amount of promotion for this new outing. After Instagram purging, baffling trailers and plenty of other marketing, is A Simple Favour worth the hassle?
Since the release of 2011’s Bridesmaids, Paul Feig has made a reputation of bringing comedy movies with women in the lead to mainstream audiences. While not everyone loves his output he’s still deserving of respect, and his latest project is billed as something of a departure from his usual comic fare for something darker.
A Simple Favour is the story of a single, straight-laced mummy blogger played by Anna Kendrick, who befriends Emily, an enigmatic, free-spirited city-slicker working mum played by Blake Lively, when they both pick their kids up from school. A few weeks after meeting, Emily asks a simple favour of her newfound friend, and so our mystery begins when Emily falls off the radar after making the fateful call.
Any detail from that point would be dancing recklessly into spoiler territory, so from here rest assured I won’t be discussing any major story points. However, if a person’s reaction to a movie counts as enough of a spoiler for you (I know that feeling all too well) then you’ll want to stop here and come back after you’ve seen A Simple Favour.
Now, going into this film one would be forgiven for expecting another Gone Girl or The Girl on the Train, but the end product here is a different beast altogether. While the story beats are there – someone goes missing, a protagonist taking the search into their own hands, a spouse that seems to be less than perfect, etc. – but A Simple Favour never seems to be interested in being a dark character exploration or anything like that.
In fact, A Simple Favour has a bit of an issue with tone throughout. There are certainly moments of darkness to be found here but for the most part, the film flits to and fro: from classic Feig level comedy to Basic Instinct type thriller and back, with a hint of Single White Female to boot. As a result this film at times feels like it’s suffering from an identity crisis of sorts, and when the hard hits land it’s hard to really feel their impact for trying to get a hold of the movie’s overall intention.
That said, everything else about the film – from Anna Kendrick’s and Blake Lively’s performances to the sharp writing and the slick visuals – suggest a level of such competent filmmaking that it may well be an intentional part of the setup to have such varying tones. A Simple Favour romps along at a blinding pace and it’s never a boring watch at all; while not a perfect film by any stretch, it’s certainly entertaining. The film’s twists are not exactly shocking, but they do just enough to keep one guessing without stopping to think about the logic of the film’s story.
There’s an energy about this film that, if anybody didn’t know any better, has a sense of coming from a newcomer to the industry. While I’ve always been fond of Paul Feig’s output to date – Spy being a personal favourite – this certainly feels like a step in the right direction for him going forward. Whether A Simple Favour is just a diversion into something darker or a part of a bigger change to different genres of movie, it’s exciting to see where things go from here.