Bridesmaids, Spy and the recent female Ghostbusters film all have one thing in common: director Paul Feig. You’ll also notice they are all women-led comedies starring some of the biggest female comedians around today.
A Simple Favour sees Feig try something a little different. While sticking to a female-centric story he dips his toe into the mystery/thriller genre, adapting Darcey Bell’s 2017 book of the same name.
Anyone unfamiliar with the material who needs a modern reference point should look towards Gone Girl. Except this is a lot trashier. And less intriguing. And a much worse film all around.
A Simple Favour: Starring Anna Kendrick
It stars the ever-youthful looking Anna Kendrick as Stephanie, a widowed single mum who is a little much when it comes to volunteering for school activities and the like.
When she isn’t being talked about behind her back by fellow parents, she hosts a regular home cooking vlog. Gazpachos, fresh-baked cookies. That sort of annoying thing.
Her son is her world until she makes friends with Blake Lively’s Emily, whose child also goes to the same school. Emily is the complete opposite of Stephanie. She’s cool, sexy, has a high powered job and a handsome husband in Sean (Henry Golding).
Soon they are regularly hanging out in Emily’s swanky home, knocking back Martinis and swapping sordid secrets. That is until Stephanie is asked by her friend to look after her son for a few hours (a simple favour), and Emily never returns.
This moves the plot into the second phase of the film. Stephanie turns detective, rooting around Emily’s past to find out why she has disappeared. Was she all she was cracked up to be? And is Stephanie getting a little too obsessive with her investigation?
The first half of the film is where Feig feels more comfortable. Kendrick’s strong comic timing raises some good laughs as she nervously goofs her way into Emily’s life. She’s drawn to Emily’s confidence which Lively exudes effortlessly.
Once they start to spend less time on screen together the problems start to emerge. The twists slowly ramp up as Stephanie digs deeper into Emily’s past. But there is never a hint of suspense or tension as to what may crawl out of the woodwork next.
Maybe it works better as a cheesy, brainless page-turner when lying on a holiday beach. But seeing it up on screen is just not very compelling. It looks bright and stylish while also feeling soulless and empty.
Where you are hoping the thriller aspect might add excitement, it never really materialises. Instead, we are given jokes that either belong in the first half, or in another film entirely.
Out of Comedy Comfort Zone
Feig is out of his comedy comfort zone in the second half of A Simple Favour and it quickly shows. You care little about the poorly written domestic intrigue surrounding Sean, Emily and Stephanie. If only you could return to the easy-going friendship of the first hour all would be forgiven.
There is a moment in the film when it could have flipped Stephanie’s character into something darker and more interesting. But it doesn’t. It just takes the easy route out with mediocre results.
A Simple Favour opens in cinemas nationwide on 21st September.