**WARNING: REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS**
When Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) discovers that her best friend Emily (Blake Lively) has gone missing she does all that she can to discover what has happened to her. Despite its premise, A Simple Favor is a comedic thriller that never takes itself too seriously. Based upon the novel by Darcey Bell, it’s an entertaining mystery full of scandal and drama. There are some areas that could use a little improvement but nevertheless it’s a lot of fun.
As I left the theater I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. The trailer didn’t look promising so I was expecting a bit of a train wreck and it was not that by any means. One of the elements of this film that the screenwriter, Jessica Sharzer, got right was the story itself. The story has to be intriguing, scandalous, and must include some unforeseen twists. It’s also important for there to be a strong payoff. Fortunately this film has all of that. What sets it apart is that it also has a fair amount of humor within the script. This is a large part of what makes this such an enjoyable watch, just when the story would take a dark turn there was a comedic moment to break up the tension. I often found that the jokes fell flat but there were plenty of laughs from others in the theater. I didn’t think this was its strongest area but it did help to create a sense of lightheartedness within the story.
The strongest parts of this movie come from the actors. Without these leading ladies I don’t know how this would have turned out. Anna Kendrick is excellent as the socially awkward, single mother and vlogger, Stephanie. She is great as the overly cautious and attentive mother who volunteers for every school event but she isn’t connecting with the other parents. Anna Kendrick is a really good actress when she’s given a role that allows her to be that. There isn’t a lot of meat to this role but she is one that I always enjoy seeing more of. Her character is somewhat ridiculous and a bit overtop but that’s all a part of the fun.
When Stephanie’s son befriends a boy from school, she introduces herself to his mother, Emily, and the two quickly become friends over shared afternoon martinis. Everything about Emily is the exact opposite of Stephanie. From the outside she has the perfect style, career, and husband. However the more we learn about her the more you realized how disturbed she is. Blake Lively gives a strong performance as this character. There were times when she was chilling, like the time she was so clearly tricking Stephanie into opening up about her secrets. She’s perfectly cast as the manipulative beautiful woman. Her physical presence also works for this role simply because her looks are intimidating, it completely makes sense how she could captivate anyone. Blake Lively towers over the rather petite Anna Kendrick and that helps to create a visual of that sense of power she has over her. It’s a small thing but this was a smart casting decision.
Even though I was really enjoying this film I did have some issues. After Emily’s disappearance there is about 15 minutes that could’ve been left out. Like the entire scene of Stephanie emptying out Emily’s closet or the random scene with the artist (Linda Cardellini) who once used Emily as her muse. There was a lot of back and fourth once Emily is found, how and why she disappeared and who knew and who didn’t. In the end some of this could have been left out and it still would’ve worked. The pacing is another issue; it’s unmatched in the second act. The beginning is methodical in showcasing the women as they become friends and character development is happening but in the second act it’s like a race to the finish line.
Lastly, while Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick gave good performances, Henry Golding does not. His character, Emily’s husband, Sean, was shallow and confusing. His chemistry with both Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick didn’t work for me. It was evident that he and Emily had marital problems but it wasn’t clear if he was in on the mystery surrounding her disappearance or not. Even after my questions were answered I was left with more questions. This isn’t meant to be an overly confusing screenplay or mystery so that shouldn’t have been the case. However the more time I spend away for this movie the more I think I’ll enjoy watching it even more the next time. The good outweighs the bad in this instance and it’s an entertaining film.
3 out of 5 stars
Director: Paul Feig Writer: Jessica Sharzer (screenplay), Darcey Bell (novel) Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells Release Date: September 14th Rated: R Runtime: 1 hour and 57 minutes