UK Release Date: 21st September 2018
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Jessica Sharzer
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Bashir Salahuddin, Rupert Friend, Linda Cardellini
Synopsis: A peppy mother befriends the mysterious parent of her child, only for her to go missing after asking the simple favour of picking her kid up from school, sparking a police search.
When you and your friends leave the cinema after A Simple Favour, you may try to decide between yourselves just what on earth this film is about. There’s every chance you’ll be putting more thought into it than the creators. Based on the book of the same name, A Simple Favour follows the burgeoning friendship between school moms Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) and Emily (Blake Lively). However, a short time into their friendship, Emily disappears leaving Stephanie confused, but also building a closer relationship with Emily’s husband, Sean (Henry Golding), as they try to uncover the mystery and live normal lives at the same time.
Such a breezy summary is giving the film too much credit for its command of plot. While its first half is an interesting – if a bit flat – opening to a mystery thriller, the latter parts are an unfurling mess, a masterclass in how to lose track of plot, tone and characters. Despite this, however, you can’t help but have a good time. The story goes to a bunch of bizarre places, often without pay-off, but the script doesn’t want for bite. It often catches you off guard with a good joke line or a quick tonal shift and you can’t help but feel that in the hands of a more artistic-minded director – Paul Feig labours under story here – this stuff would have possessed a real edge.
By the second half of the movie, when the mystery really kicks in and the film’s slow descent into madness starts in earnest, you’re having too much fun to care. It’s like watching a non-tragic accident; an episode of You’ve Been Framed before the Harry Hill voiceover where you sucked through your teeth at the incoming accident, but couldn’t help but smirk at it. A Simple Favour revels in the anarchy it gets itself sucked in to. Everything is meaningless, yet everything is melodramatic. Nothing makes sense, yet nothing bothers you about it.
Any enjoyment derived from A Simple Favour comes in spite of its makers, who clearly didn’t have enough grasp on any element of this to extract the final product that they did. Kendrick and Lively give good performances, with Lively in particular giving some bite to the beauty queen image fans of Gossip Girl may have struggled until now to shake off. Golding, last seen in Crazy Rich Asians, is fine in the male role, if given little to do.
Purely by accident, it seems, A Simple Favour is a blast. In the discussions where you try to decode its meaning, you may land on it as a satire of disposal crime fiction – the suburban housewife crime mysteries that take on more and more ridiculous elements the longer they go on and have been turned into several straight-faced films. In recent years, we have seen this manifest in movies like Gone Girl, The Girl On The Train and even the final Fifty Shades entry.
A Simple Favour takes those elements and turns them up to 11, unrelentlingly pushing the clichés to the next level. Is this intentional? Who knows, but it certainly feels worth it.
Pop or Poop?
Paul Feig presides over a rickety runaway train in A Simple Favour, but it’s one that stays on the tracks long enough that it’s difficult not to enjoy the ride. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively prove to be a compelling double act and there’s enough fizz and sharpness to the dialogue that the comic spirit of Feig is present and correct, even when the narrative unravels like a ball of spring.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.