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A Simple Favor – Movie Review

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A Simple Favor – Movie Review

Rating: B+ (Very Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films

Over the past number of years, Paul Feig has become a director known for woman-centric comedies with improvisational gags and action set-pieces. He’s proven capable of making those sorts of films, but A Simple Favor marks a solid departure, albeit still with a good number of his trademarks. The plot takes some outlandish and absurd turns, but that’s part of its appeal as we see Anna Kendrick’s cheery mother try to make sense of the whole ordeal. The dark comedy meshes well with the main mystery as Feig is able to balance the various tones. A Simple Favor is a wild ride that’s unapologetic about what it sets out to do.

A Simple Favor is a film gifted with the perfect casting. Anna Kendrick nails the role of a mother who attempts to shine brightness into even the most mundane activities and seeing her embroiled in a dark tale of death allows for a humourous contrast. Feig directs multiple scenes with Kendrick’s Stephanie and Blake Lively’s Emily having conversations and getting to know each other. Adapting Darcey Bell’s novel, screenwriter Jessica Sharzar crafts an unusual friendship between the two that works in setting up Stephanie’s determination later on. The movie slowly but surely unravels secrets that help in expanding who they are.

The comedy is a bit darker than often seen in Feig’s films and he handles this slight change in tone rather well. Some of the funniest scenes involve Stephanie hosting her online tutorial show, done on a fake YouTube with clever little visual touches. The movie will occasionally cut to a trio of fellow parents looking at the oddball relationship that transpires with the lead protagonists. These small scenes allow Feig to comment on the action from an outsider’s perspective, with Andrew Rannells being particularly funny. Feig also knows how to use location incredibly well, with Emily’s house feeling larger than life and Stephanie’s home is appropriately cozy.

As A Simple Favor tells its story and the mystery’s layers start unraveling, the movie excitedly gets even more absurd. In most other films, this would be when the story begins to lose its sustainability. And yet, Feig makes these ridiculous revelations part of the fun and one admires the directions taken. The use of flashbacks is well handled as the movie builds towards its climax. A Simple Favor does start to run a little long during the third act, a common problem with Feig’s work. Some slight snipping here and there would have helped matters and not made the final landing feel so sluggish.

It’s neat to see Paul Feig go in a different direction with his next film and A Simple Favor does offer many pleasures, particularly when Stephanie finds herself thrust into Emily’s world. There are some solid surprises to keep one’s interest going and the film successfully jumps between the dark comedy and the more dramatic scenes. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively have great chemistry, showcasing the strengths of both performers. A Simple Favor is a twisty escapade that is not afraid to take a fair amount of risks and bring the audience down some unpredictable roads.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE

Stefan Ellison