MOVIE REVIEW: A Simple Favour a genuinely entertaining ride
WITH its gripping premise, likeable cast and a director in Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy), A Simple Favour has much going for it.
Based on the book by debut novelist Darcey Bell, the mystery thriller with a comedic undertone follows many similar stories - a woman with secrets and a dark past vanishes, leading an unreliable narrator on a hunt to find her.
It's an incredibly entertaining two hours, taking the audience on an ever-twisty who- and whydunit as every character starts to look increasingly suspicious (who's gaslighting who?) while spouting the kind of snappy dialogue that only comes from screenwriters and not real people.
That's not to say it's perfect because it certainly has its share of flaws with its over-convoluted plotting and tone inconsistencies.
And if you find Anna Kendrick's intensity annoying, rather than adorably charming, then you might be squirming in your seat just little bit more, because A Simple Favour completely, unapologetically leans into that hyperactive pluckiness.
Kendrick plays Stephanie Smothers, a widowed single mother who volunteers for everything at her son Miles' school. When she meets Emily (Blake Lively), the mother of her son's friend Nicky, she's totally taken with her.
Emily has a high-profile, demanding job in the city, dresses in ridiculously chic power suits and loves nothing more than day-drinking a strong-arse martini or four. She also happens to say macabre things like "the best thing I can do for Nicky is put a bullet in my brain".
Emily's life looks perfect from the outside - incredible wardrobe, architecturally designed house, oh-so-handsome husband Sean (Crazy Rich Asians' Henry Golding) - but she has many, many secrets. Even her own husband calls her a cipher, an impossibly glamorous, irresistible but unknowable woman.
One afternoon, Emily calls Stephanie and asks her to pick up her son, but then she disappears and no one hears from her.
Using her vlog as a platform, Stephanie starts her own sleuthing. But Stephanie isn't the arts-and-crafts, zucchini chocolate chip cookie-making mummy blogger she presents to the world either.
There are some good performances here, especially from Kendrick whose chemistry with Lively is enjoyable. Golding is given more to do in this script than in Crazy Rich Asians, which hints at his development as an actor rather than as some matinee idol.
And there are good cameos from Andrew Rannells, Rupert Friend, Linda Cardellini (reuniting with Feig from their Freaks And Geeks days) and the always brilliant Jean Smart.
So much of A Simple Favour is about the secrets we all keep and how much we owe the people around us - are they entitled to know all of you or do you get to keep a part of yourself to only yourself?
But that grasp for deeper meaning is generally untapped in this movie that is more concerned with keeping you hooked with style and plot twists and turns than something that has more significance.
A Simple Favour is genuinely quite thrilling at times. But there's the rub - "at times". It doesn't know what kind of movie it is. Is a thriller? A retro satire in the vein of Stepford Wives (which it clearly references in some of the costume choices)?
Maybe we shouldn't expect it to be one thing over the other but the tone shifts don't always work. And the last 20 minutes veer into outlandishness, one that really defies narrative necessity.
If you can forgive all that, then A Simple Favour can be a bit of simple fun.
A Simple Favour is in cinemas now.
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