A Simple Favor (2018). Directed by Paul Feig. With Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.
A Simple Favor stars nerdy Anna Kendrick and snappy Blake Lively as unlikely ‘friends’ who after the school run, pack their sons off to play while they bond over martinis and juicy confessions in Lively’s designer home, which she shares with Sean, her one-hit wonder author partner. Before long, it becomes blatantly apparent that Kendrick is being used…to what end is the intrigue that fuels Paul Feig’s film adaptation of Darcey Bell’s 2017 novel.
Tonally, it’s like The Devil Wears Prada conversing at a crowded party, making small talk with Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca, Gone Girl and Crazy, Stupid Love. It frequently over steps the mark, as two contrasting drives of chic drama-thriller and nerdy comedy appear to clash rather than meld, yet in these times of content overload, it is faintly refreshing to be served something determinedly uneven.
As Emily, Blake Lively’s attractiveness is weaponised. A movie character with instant chutzpah – a special ops authority in style who forces mere mortals to wither with inferiority. The enigma of Emily gives her the edge, however her desire to be invisible is contradicted by her desire to look incredible. Contrast her with Kendrick’s Stephanie, an internet vlogger who is desperate to be noticed amid the daily struggle of being a lonely single parent with a tragic past. They meet and become friends, or so Stephanie believes…
Told from Stephanie’s (Kendrick) perspective, director Paul Feig makes it feel like his lead character has been transplanted awkwardly into the world of glossy lifestyle magazine. She’s out of her depth, trying to wing it, yet she is a willing participant in Emily’s thinly-veiled manipulation for the sake of hanging out with someone intimidatingly cool. Watched as a ‘comedy’, it doesn’t work. The humour stifles the drama, lessening the overall worth of the experience leaving a film that had greater potential than fun throwaway rental fodder.
In the moments when it begins to fatigue, there are fun twists to keep it in favour and Blake Lively delivers an enjoyable shot of femme-fatale movie star mystique. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before and chances are you haven’t seen it put together in this way.