Based on the crime mystery novel by Darcey bell, A Simple Favor is a strange hybrid of a movie that never feels comfortable in it’s own skin. Starring Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, the film tells the twisted tale of a wholesome single mom and cookery vlogger that sets out to find out what happens to her new best friend when she mysteriously vanishes. Directed by Paul Feig, the film starts with Kendrick’s character Stephanie explaining to her subscribers that friend Emily has disappeared. She explains she will continue to vlog, while hoping to find the reason for her disappearing act. It’s a clever opening that sets up the the flashbacks that show us the initial meeting of the two chalk and cheese characters, and it has a lot of funny one liners and clever quips.
Lively makes a stunning entrance, making sure that we know everything we need to know about her, just from her slow mo walking in the rain first appearance. Watching the two ladies bond over Martini’s is fun, and the two actresses are clearly enjoying their roles. Then, just when you think you have a grasp on the plot, the screenplay suddenly gets very dark, very quickly. From the initial Netflix series humor, we go into crime thriller territory, and the tonal shift is jarring. Now, that on it’s own does not need to be a bad thing. Often the first act in a movie can swerve off the beaten track and find itself in dark unknown unlit roads, the trouble here is that this film seems to be swerving out of control, constantly. The humor is quite silly, but the story is very dark, the lines are funny, but the body dragged from the lake is horrific. So you get a very uneven viewing experience and as you approach the 3rd act, everything starts to get annoying.
Inside A Simple favor is a very dark, twisted, enthralling mystery thriller, but here it’s wrapped up in a mildly amusing comedy. The story also follows a similar path. There’s plenty of reveals in the movie, but by the time I got to the end, I was ready for the whole thing to be resolved. During a very cutesy final scene, there’s a gag with a vehicle that is so over the top that it takes you completely out of the action, and it’s the culmination of a lot of scenes that have similar tendencies. It’s a shame, as it seems that the cast and crew are all on board with the production, and it was probably a great shoot for all of them, but there needed to be a director on board here that knew what the end product was going to be. Instead, there are dramatic moments, and tension, that is scuppered by silly billy comedy antics.
For me this was a frustrating movie. I wanted to be invested in the main plot, the disappearance and apparent murder of a complicated and enigmatic woman, surrounded by mystery and intrigue, but I was constantly asked to be more impressed with the clever dialogue and gentle slapstick of the leading players. It was like playing golf, and somebody next to you grabbing your arm every time you tried to tee off. Go see it for the story, and ignore the jokes and you may get something from this, or do it the other way round depending on how you feel.