The blog post, ‘A Simple Favor (2018) movie review’, is sponsored by ODEON Cinemas. Sign up for a Limitless card and see as many films as you want from as little as €19.99 a month – or go check out one of their many screens, where they still serve Ben & Jerry’s AND you can get chocolate IN your popcorn. Yes, really.
When A Simple Favor popped up on the screen at last night’s ODEON Screen Unseen viewing in Point Square, there were cheers (along with one poor man who grumbled, “for feck sake”) – a testament not only to Anna Kendrick’s acting prowess, Blake Lively’s sheer magnetism and Paul Feig‘s reputation (he directed Bridesmaids and 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot, starring Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig), but also the hype built up ahead of the September 20th release of the Hitchcockian whodunnit. (It might also be the fact that tickets to Screen Unseen viewings cost just €5 – so any semi-decent film is going to be a serious win.)
That A Simple Favor is going to be a highly stylised piece of grip lit, with serious nods to film noir, is evident from, the opening credits; the star cast is introduced to the strains of Saint Privat’s Poisson Rouge, with an almost Bond-esque title sequence. It’s a theory that’s cemented when we first meet Blake Lively’s Emily, dressed in a sleek navy suit with matching Christian Louboutin* pumps (this is not the first piece of tailoring we’ll see on Emily; in fact, aside from the film’s rather punchy denouement, Lively will exclusively wear trouser suits – with one notable leather-legginged exception).
A Simple Favor is beautiful – but that’s not all
Let’s get this out of the way early: I laughed a lot at A Simple Favor. We all know Anna Kendrick’s comic timing is incredible, but Blake Lively gives her a run for her money in this dark comedy-slash-crime thriller. Sure, there are echoes of Gone Girl – however, without Ben Affleck’s po-faced posturing, this whodunnit is a whole lot more enjoyable (sorry, Ben). Anna Kendrick’s Stephanie, who takes it upon herself to uncover the mystery, is a far more sympathetic sleuth, even if she’s not entirely likeable (you’ll never want to hear the words “hi, Moms!” ever again).
There’s no point in discussing plot – just go see it; spoilers are for chumps – but I will say that A Simple Favor felt, to me, as though it would have made an excellent mini-series. Perhaps that’s just me, fresh off a Sharp Objects binge, but the success of Big Little Lies says that there’s definitely an appetite for female-led drama with a long, drawn out story unravelling, and I would have been just as happy watching Kendrick and Lively for eight hours as I was watching them for two.
It’s fun – but it’s not perfect
I really enjoyed A Simple Favor, but that’s not to say that it’s entirely perfect. It’s carried, largely, by Kendrick – whose ability to act in pretty much anything is now assured – while Lively plays the femme fatale with aplomb, but there are definitely moments of accidental levity provided by Henry Golding’s slightly clunky portrayal of Sean, Emily’s husband (he won’t care – he’s in Crazy Rich Asians, one of 2018’s biggest movies) and by the entirely ridiculous truths unearthed by Stephanie’s Nancy Drew efforts.
At one stage, I turned to my friend and exclaimed (whispered, I promise), “it’s a bit Sweet Valley High, isn’t it?!” and I could absolutely imagine the plot of A Simple Favor being shoe-horned into an episode of SVH. “Whatever happened Emily?” I would call it. (There’s a reason I don’t write TV screenplays.) That’s not a criticism – just to say that A Simple Favor is kind of a simple film. It’s fun, it’s frothy, it’s stylish and it’s entertaining. What more could you want?