Widowed mother and household vlogger Stephanie befriends the mother of her son’s friend, Emily, a mysterious woman married to a retired author living in a luxurious house. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie sets out to solve the mystery of her disappearance.
The narrative of A Simple Favor has had many comparisons to Gone Girl, which is understandable since both films involve a disappearance of a mysterious woman, and there are multiple plot twists and turns along the way. Although it’s not as multi-layered or as in depth, A Simple Favor relies a lot more on humour, which was only minor at best in Gone Girl.
This film actually reminded me quite a lot of Veronica Mars, which is a mystery series that successfully balances serious drama and witty humour while delivering clever twists.
This is the fifth female-led film in a row directed by Paul Feig, yet the first of the five not to be a straight-up comedy (nor featuring Melissa McCarthy). I would class this more as a dramedy - think of the dramatic aspects of Bridesmaids played up more and put into a thriller. There’s plenty of comedy however and as usual Feig delivers on the laughs very well.
Whether you love or hate Paul Feig’s films there’s no denying he’s very good at directing women. Every female lead in his films have always been well-rounded characters that are easy to follow and have quite a bit of realism, plenty of flaws with little-to-no Mary-Sue qualities. This film is no exception, as Stephanie is a relatable protagonist who is sympathetic even with a bit of a twisted past and shows a lot of cleverness and initiative in her investigation. While Emily is a modernised blonde femme fatale, she still feels like a real person with dark secrets that she masks through profanity and dry humour.
While I wouldn’t say I was a big fan of Anna Kendrick, I’ve always liked her in everything she does, and here she delivers one of her better performances. She gets to show a lot of versatility with the different method her character uses to play detective throughout. She’s also very funny, being able to hit all the right comedic notes, especially when she’s reacting to certain people’s unusual behaviour.
Blake Lively is also great at delivering the comedy, and considering Emily is a character who’s an enigma it could not have been an easy task for her to pull it off. Kendrick and Lively have great chemistry; their characters are completely opposite yet you feel that admiration they have and the desire they wish to be like each other.
Henry Golding is also impressive as Emily’s husband Sean, likeable enough to sympathise with yet suspicious enough to question how much he actually knows about his wife’s character and disappearance. There are some great standouts in smaller roles, such as Andrew Rannells as Stephanie’s judgemental neighbour, and Rupert Friend as Emily’s despicable boss. Jean Smart and Linda Cardellini only have one scene each, yet are very memorable in their roles.
The film visually is very stylish, especially with the design of Emily and Sean’s house, which is very rich and simplistic. With good-looking actors, the costume designer did a great job at creating clothes that suit their characters personalities while also flattering them, especially Lively, who’s able to pull off some amazing yet far-fetched outfits.
It’s certainly worth seeing for any mystery addict who loves to keep guessing and be pleasantly surprised. It's also definitely a must see if you’re a fan of Veronica Mars (and vice versa if you loved this film).
Written by Jack Parish