By: Jessica Goddard
A movie unafraid to leave your head spinning from the farfetched quantity of twists, A Simple Favor is fun, well-paced, and stylish. Directed by Paul Feig, it balances elements of a mystery/thriller/dramedy, borrowing from too-many-to-count eerie pop culture phenomena before it. And yet, successfully, it pulls off homage (as opposed to shameless rip-off) time and time again, in a way that feels fresh and full of energy.
Speaking of which, Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively deserve credit for providing pulse to Stephanie and Emily, respectively. Stephanie is a fiercely devoted, widowed mother, who records rarely-seen parenting vlogs while her son is at school, while Emily is a busy working mother with a gorgeous husband (Henry Golding) and prestigious career, who swears in the house and enjoys a strong afternoon martini. The two easy opposites are brought together on behalf of their young sons, who beg for an afterschool playdate one rainy afternoon, and it doesn’t take long for Stephanie and Emily to become a classic Odd Couple after a few drinks in Emily’s glamorous home.
Things get interesting when Emily phones Stephanie out of the blue, asking a simple favour – pick up her kid from school while she deals with a work emergency. But one day rolls into two, and suddenly it’s been five days since anyone’s seen or heard from Emily. Being the friend that she is, Stephanie takes it upon herself to find out what really happened to her best friend of five minutes, and independently pursues the skeletons in Emily’s closet (as a commentary on the times, Stephanie’s viewer numbers pick up dramatically as soon as she starts speaking about the ongoing mystery on her vlog).
Both the super conscientious Stephanie and the elusive Emily are mostly caricatures – with the leads playing clearly to their types – but the actors have chemistry, and are able to maintain a tone that smartly acknowledges when the story has spiralled into camp. And, this wise lack of hyperseriousness is one of the movie’s key strengths. The plot moves swiftly, including plenty of melodramatic twists and emotional bombshells.
With punchy colours, detailed settings, and chic costumes, the world built by Feig is one that’s equally exciting both before and after Emily’s untimely disappearance.
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Jessica Goddard: @TheJGod