A Simple Favor - 2018
Director(s): Paul Feig
Writer(s): Jessica Sharzer (screenplay) / Darcey Bell (novel)
Cinematography by: John Schwartzman
Editor(s): Brent White
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Ian Ho, Kelly McCormack and Aparna Nancherla
I’ll be honest, when I saw the trailer for this movie I had no intention of watching it. The trailer was a bit of a mess since the story doesn’t lend itself for a catchy trailer without spoiling a lot of the plot points. But after a week of its release I started to see people gush over this crazy thriller with a dark, twisted sense of humor and this peeked my interest. Walking out of this Gone Girl / Heathers hybrid, I fully understand the appeal of this movie. Let’s talk about it.
The story centers around an unlikely friendship between a perky, wholesome, stay-at-home-mom Stephanie (Kendrick) and the beautifully enigmatic, charismatic, selfish PR director Emily (Lively). After they spark-up a friendship, in which secrets and dark desires are shared, Emily mysteriously disappears, leading to Stephanie discovering that she really didn’t know anything about Emily or her true intentions. Look, as you watch this movie unfold you are instantly sucked into in the gravitational pull surrounding Emily. You understand how people simply fall under her spell, you smile along and you feel just as smitten as Stephanie and you want to be invited into her world. This helps the story structure as it is very dependent on the fact that people overlook all the red flags her character constantly throws into the world. The pay-off isn’t all that great, as it’s a bit predictable and overplayed, but the journey Feig took us down was worth the time as you eat up every single frame.
If you don’t buy into the comedic tone of this movie, you will have a hard time getting to the end. The dark humor is elevated by how seriously these characters portray the situations and how matter of fact the lines are delivered, despite how absurd they are. While it doesn’t reach the heights of a Heathers in my eyes and the mystery is not as compelling as a Gone Girl, it manages to strike a balance between the genres to the point that you can see fans of either getting something out of this movie.
Quick note: the wardrobe department knock this out of the park. Every single outfit Lively wore captured her persona perfectly as it projected the self-confidence and uniqueness of her character. It gets right up to the line of “nobody would wear that in real-life” but never crosses it.
This isn’t a dig at Lively - from what I could see she is a nice person and a great wife and mother - but I’ve never liked her acting. She is fine within a certain range and she was perfectly cast in her roles such as Gossip Girl and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. I just never saw anything other than Lively in the roles. She simply played herself. This movie blew that notion out of the water. She embodied this sexy, confident tornado of bad decisions to the point that I fully believed her to be real. Her charisma felt like a force of nature and she took anyone that stood in front of her by storm and made me miss her character anytime she wasn’t on screen. I liked Kendrick as the shy single mother being overwhelmed by this world she has never seen before and how she naturally progressed her character as the veil was lifted from her eyes. But this is Lively’s movie.
A Simple Favor is a crazy, fun, dark comedy with enough thriller elements to keep you engaged from beginning to end. Feig is back to form as he allowed the script and the actors to evolve naturally without it feeling like he tried to shoot thirty different versions of the same joke. But this movie wouldn’t be half as good if it wasn’t for Blake Lively’s out-of-nowhere performance, and that is a sentence I truly didn’t expect I would ever write. I hope this is just the beginning. Blake Lively is why I love movies.
A Simple Favor is currently in theaters. Fun matinee movie.
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