Hot Take: A Simple Favor never really allows itself to be cornered into a specific genre which is what makes it so much fun. It’s more about Lively and Kendrick though and they’re both great in Paul Feig’s first directorial effort sans Melissa McCarthy since 2006.
A Simple Favor is an easy decision and here’s how to make it: Are you okay with a less than adequate story overshadowed by two talented performers obviously having a blast with the material that’s more style than substance? You are? (I was.) Then A Simple Favor should be right up your alley. (That’s a figurative alley, by the way. Not everyone has their own literal alley.) Director Paul Feig sheds his Melissa McCarthy security blanket to bring to life the 2017 novel with the same name which essentially feels like a Gone Girl knock-off and considering A Simple Favor‘s $20 million budget is 1/3 of Gone Girl’s that comparison holds true financially. The result is something a little closer to a less sexier version of 1998’s Wild Things though Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick have their moments, too. (They’re not quite as memorable as Denise Richards and Neve Campbell’s escapades in the 1998 thriller.) If it needed to be defined into a genre, the best description would be noir comedy which doesn’t necessarily seem like it’s a thing but A Simple Favor is able to get there though it’s not completely funny or totally dark but has enough elements of both to make it work.
In A Simple Favor, single mom and vlogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is the perfect mom. She volunteers at school, signs up for multiple tasks and makes sure her son Miles (Joshua Satine) always has someone looking after him. When Miles’ best friend at school, Nicky (Ian Ho), wants to have a play date, Stephanie meets Nicky’s mom Emily (Blake Lively) and the two, despite their obvious differences, hit it off immediately. Stephanie seems intoxicated with Emily’s take no bullshit approach and eventually the two share secrets and they both have an understanding that bonds the two together. When Emily calls Stephanie and asks her for a simple favor to pick up her son Nicky and watch him while she’s working, Stephanie thinks very little of it. That’s until Emily disappears with almost no trace leaving behind her son and her husband (Henry Golding) and Stephanie to help them hold it together while making every effort to learn the whereabouts of Emily.
A Simple Favor has plenty of twists and turns and while it would be more entertaining to break down some of the film’s more juicier moments, it would go against this site’s “spoiler free” commitment. However, if you like a film that keeps on your toes and actually pulls off the rare feat of keeping you guessing a bit, A Simple Favor has that element, too. Intrinsic to the film’s success are Kendrick and Lively, though, who shine in their roles and deliciously display a darker side to their roles. While both have shown dark glimpses in previous roles (especially Lively who gives a throwback to her Gossip Girl roots… okay, so her roots are probably more The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but Gossip Girl put her on the map), it’s full fledged in A Simple Favor and drives the ethos of this film.
If, by now, you’re still unsure of whether or not you’re a fan of either Kendrick or Lively, where have you been? Since 2014, Kendrick has appeared in a whopping 16 films and Lively has made at least 1 film the last 3 years. There’s plenty of resume for you to have at least stumbled on one of their performances. Whether or not you relish the two talented actresses or rebuke them is what should decide whether A Simple Favor is worth your 117 minutes. If you’re on board with either or both as a performer then do yourself a simple favor and see this noir comedy.
Kendrick, Lively and proof that Feig doesn’t need Melissa McCarthy to make a decent flick.
You’ve seen Gone Girl enough on cable to put you where even the idea of a knock-off version makes you uneasy.