By Marc S. Sanders
Director Paul Feig has a great approach to directing women and how characters interact with one another. Bridesmaids was one of the best ensemble comedies of the last twenty years. With A Simple Favor, adapted by Jessica Sharzer from the novel by Darcey Belle, Feig goes for the twisty mystery.
A Connecticut suburban mommy vlogger named Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) befriends an ice cold three piece suit business executive rebel mom named Emily (Blake Lively) when their elementary school age sons become friends. These women couldn’t be more different. Neither really has friends. Stephanie teaches unseen internet surfers the latest recipes or arts and crafts. Emily teaches Stephanie how to make martinis, drink and how to make your place in the world by saying “Fuck you!” to someone’s face, especially if it’s your boss.
As the exposition progresses, Stephanie becomes relied upon to watch after Emily’s son, Nicky, all too often. One day though, Emily doesn’t come to pick Nicky up and all but disappears with no trace. Stephanie attempts to uncover what happened. She talks with Emily’s husband (Henry Golding) who was out of town at the time of the disappearance. She makes the mystery an ongoing theme on her vlog and invites theories from her viewers. Comments range from “I bet it’s the husband.” to “That poor little boy.” Furthermore, Stephanie begins to adopt some of Emily’s aggressive traits to pursue her own investigation. Kendrick’s change in character is one of the more fun elements of the film. She becomes a modern day Jessica Fletcher or Nancy Drew.
The script for A Simple Favor plays like the better seasons of Desperate Housewives, or as mad as the film Wild Things with Denise Richards & Neve Campbell with outrageous sexual episodes that are meant to deceive or play with your mind. Twists that I wouldn’t dare reveal occur to deepen the mystery even further and Paul Feig’s film even seems to have a Jekyll/Hyde personality at times.
Anna Kendrick is bubbly, fun and quirky. Blake Lively is lethal and harsh. Both actresses are great contrasts to each other. What allows these two ladies to get drawn to one another and eventually call themselves “best friends” is their lack of friendship with anyone else and the very, very dark secrets they both possess. When the set ups are done, the ladies’ histories may or may not become instrumental in Emily’s disappearance and Stephanie’s curiosity for the truth.
As ridiculously far fetched as A Simple Favor is, I liked it because it kept me guessing. More so, I was really wondering who the true perpetrator was. I did not trust any of the players in the film, not even Stephanie, and so I was engaged.
A Simple Favor is one of those films where you won’t know if you liked the film until it reaches its conclusion. A mystery must depend on how satisfying the resolution is. Is it believable? No matter how absurd everything is, again, is…it…believable? For a time, I was hoping, UTTERLY HOPING, this was not going to go the way of Fight Club or Secret Window. If you’ve seen those films then you know what I’m talking about.
So again, is it believable? Yeah! I like to think so. Therefore, I gotta recommend the film.