The simplest way to describe A Simple Favor to someone is to tell them that it’s equal parts Gone Girl and Double Indemnity infused with Paul Feig’s signature humour. Though it is an adaptation of the Darcey Bell novel of the same name, the film is undoubtedly a Feig creation – full of bright hues and offbeat dark comedy. The neo-noir begins with an introductory credit sequence reminiscent of a 70’s Bond film, but the film is much less heavy handed than Fleming’s spy. Instead, A Simple Favor is an effective melding of a thriller with that of a macabre comedy.
Stephanie Ward (Anna Kendrick) is a single mother who meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) when they both pick up their sons from school. The two become a kind of odd couple, Ward wanting desperately to please, Nelson wanting some sense of normalcy that Ward seemingly exudes. After a few weeks of building their friendship, Nelson abruptly disappears, and Ward decides it is up to her to find her and figure out why she disappeared.
There are strong performances in the film, notably Henry Golding as Emily Nelson’s husband Sean and Blake Lively as the wonderfully enigmatic Emily Nelson. Golding, having come off of the success of Crazy Rich Asians plays a strong supporting flawed male lead that he can sink his teeth into, which he does admirably. The strongest performance however is that of Anna Kendrick as the incessantly upbeat Stephanie. Her character’s turn from vlogger to intrepid detective is one that feels not only natural, but instinctual. Kendrick deftly handles the character without moving her into camp territory, which would have been quite easy for a lesser actor. It is a testament to both her interpretation of the character and her skill as an actor.
The only thing that I can say against the film is a failing of many thriller adaptations – the storyline is a little challenging to follow from start to finish, and by the time you’re catching up to the ending, you’re still working through some of the reveals from a minute ago. Though some of these reveals are somewhat predictable, there are plenty of details that still remain delightfully mysterious. There is some use of an unreliable narrator that adds to this effect – that whilst adding tension and excitement to the turnabouts, it does muddy the waters a little when piecing together seemingly disparate plot elements.
It is challenging to review and encourage people to see A Simple Favor without spoiling what makes this film special. Aside from being a well made film with great performances, it is genuinely an enjoyable experience. Though the story is a little discombobulating – even when it is in the throes of its final revelations – the final moments are immensely satisfying. Take a special someone, grab a glass of wine (or a dry, dry gin martini), some cheese and go have a fun night out. You deserve it.