Movie Review: ‘A Simple Favor’ is a twisted good time
Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Jessica Sharzer (screenplay by), Darcey Bell (based upon the novel by)
Stars: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Synopsis: Stephanie is a mommy blogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s sudden disappearance from their small town.
Director Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor is a chic, uptempo, thrillfest done with a Hitchcockian flair which is audiences will find deeply satisfying. His latest project is a twisted change of pace but still handled with great precision. The score and cinematography are the toppings on this very dark yet delicious cinematic sundae. Fear, not cinephiles! Feast on Feig’s dark pivot and hope for more.
The film is based on Darcy Bell’s novel (adapted by Jessica Sharzer) and centers around the relationship between Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) and Emily (Blake Lively). Kendrick’s character is a widowed mother who runs a vlog and is an extremely active homeroom mother. Emily is the polar opposite of Stephanie, but that matters little to her. She’s drawn to her stylish yet abrasive way due to a mixture of envy and loneliness.
Their friendship quickly grows (it also helps their kids appear to be getting along) and what use to be a once a week playdate now evolves into hanging out every day after school. Emily seizes on this new friendship and starts asking Kendrick’s character to pick up her child from school a few times a week. What starts off as a few times a week quickly morphs into almost every day. Then suddenly out of the blue, she fails to pick up her son from Stephanie’s house. Emily’s husband (played by Henry Golding) is stunned and is feverishly trying to locate his wife (along with Stephanie).
The film itself is a tawdry filled romp with some campiness that’s oozing with numerous WTF moments. Even those who have read the book, won’t be able to predict how A Simple Favor‘s ends. Kendrick and Lively are spectacular on screen. The chemistry of this dynamite pairing is off the charts and could cause Hollywood executives to attempt pairing these two down the road. Henry Golding performance reminded the three audience member in America who haven’t seen Crazy Rich Asians why he’s on the rise.
Feig’s direction in the film was spot on. A Simple Favor is paced perfectly allowing the theatrics of this tale to unfold in an organic matter. While most of what unfolds in the film is absurd, every moment has elements of plausibility. It seems nutty that Emily would have a picture of her nude body drawn from the ground up but in this tale we accept it. It becomes one of what would be many examples of her “presence” being felt. Feig made use of Kendrick’s perceived innocence to sell her very subtle dark side. Is that a homeroom mom or someone who would have an affair with a family member?
John Schwartzman’s cinematography highlighted the chicness of the set design and enhanced the telling Sharzer’s narrative. Renee Ehrlich Kalfus’s costume design reflected the tone of the film while playing an essential part in shaping who these characters were. Everyone one of Emily’s looks was enhanced by the designer’s use of bold colors and exceptional use suits. Theodore Shapiro’s score was able to walk that fine line between whimsy and seduction. Shapiro’s work could easily be compared to any number Agatha Christie.
Overall, A Simple Favor is a fabulously good time for all theatergoers and could either be the perfect date night or ladies night film. Lively, Golding, and Kendrick bring out the best in one another on screen. Feig’s direction is a gentle reminder to everyone that art involves some element of risk. Very few saw this coming but damn are we happy he brought Bell’s novel to the big screen.