Paul Feig is known for his comedies, from the usually beloved Bridesmaids (2011) to the recent Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016). His newest film, A Simple Favor (2018), blends his comedic style with a crime movie reminiscent of Gone Girl (2014) and The Girl on the Train (2016). To me, how much you’ll love or hate Feig’s new film will heavily depend on whether or not you regard it as a satire on the genre. Luckily for me, I’ve found myself leaning heavily towards the “love” column.
A Simple Favor won me over
Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a mother who lives to be a mother. She hosts a mommy vlog and volunteers at her son Miles’s (Joshua Satine) school for basically everything. Her son’s friend, Nicky (Ian Ho), leads her to meet Emily (Blake Lively), a gorgeous women whose very demeanor and attitude is opposite of Stephanie’s, making her all the more intriguing. The two form an unlikely bond, as Emily leans on Stephanie’s maternal instinct to gain having a free nanny. So, it’s not surprising that when Emily asks Stephanie for “a simple favor”, Stephanie doesn’t hesitate. However, Emily goes missing shortly thereafter, which sends Stephanie on a hunt for the truth of her friend’s fate.
Kendrick is a national treasure. Seriously. She plays comedy quirkiness better than anyone at this point and has an endless amount of charm. Her mere presence in a film elevates its appeal, as she will definitely bring her A-game. The bulk of A Simple Favor falls on her shoulders, and the audience has to buy her optimism, kindness, and her unrelenting drive. While Kendrick has proven her ability to maneuver a variety of styles in a single film before, Blake Lively has not always managed to impress – though I’d say she nails the role in this film. Lively has to exude an almost goddess-level of beauty and style while feeling like a normal person underneath it. Her character is blunt and aggressive, yet she possesses an air of the upper class. It’s an odd blending of personality and appearance, which Lively pulls off perfectly in this movie.
I also have to mention Henry Golding who plays Sean, Emily’s husband. He won me over in Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and is still extremely charming here, although this film has a severely different tone which allows us to see Golding’s range a bit more. He has to play the husband in an oddly antagonistic yet loving marriage, to a husband worried about the well-being of his wife, as well as a few other phases which change throughout the course of the story. He’s definitely a future superstar if he hasn’t already earned that title after the success of Crazy Rich Asians.
Feig did not elect to make an easy film with A Simple Plan. The tonal shifts are frequent, and there are tons of chances to lose the audience. A few groups of people walked out of my screening after Stephanie reveals her dirty secret to Emily…yeah, even the prim and proper Stephanie has a few skeletons in her closet. The reality is, despite having maybe two too many storylines that are likely there simply as a set-up for a throwaway joke late in the movie, this film feels fairly brilliant.
I was sucked into the mystery, and Stephanie, whose behavior is commented on by several characters throughout the film that reminds one of a Greek chorus, is called Nancy Drew at one point, which seems so fitting it was as if it came from my own mouth. I walked into this film with low expectations and walked out reeling with how much fun I’d had. Then, on my long drive home, I sat contemplating exactly how great I thought it was, despite a few missteps I’d thought it had made. To me, this definitely is on the positive side of Feig’s filmography.
A Simple Favor was shockingly good. I laughed a lot, but I was also sucked into the mystery that made me forget I was watching a film that initially felt more like a comedy (which ultimately returns to that tone). Yet, I think this may be a great example of film parody, as elements of the Noir genre and the crime stories are definitely evident here with comedic twists and jabs at every turn. A Simple Favor earns the carefully deliberated Must See rating.