September 14, 2018

A Simple Favor is in theaters on September 14th, 2018.

Stay-at-home mommy vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) opens her do-it-yourself instructional one day with a dark update: her best friend who vanished days earlier remains missing, and Stephanie is beginning to doubt she truly knew the full depth of her best friend. Emily (Blake Lively), a mysterious sophisticate who runs a successful career as a fixer for a fashion publication and is married to a famous author (Henry Golding), disappeared five days ago after asking Stephanie to watch her son after class due to a work emergency. Stephanie, a ne’er do well who volunteers for every class function, happily accepts.

Yet a series of flashbacks show that no one’s relationships are as wholesome as they first appear, and Emily may be hiding some secrets from her past. A Simple Favor translates the unreliable narrator to the big screen, showing that everything we hear may not be the full story. Over a series of twists and turns, everyone slowly reveals their true selves as the mystery of what happened to Emily unfolds.

It’s difficult to fault a film for its trailers, but with a premise ripped straight out of a thriller and suspenseful trailers, it’s easy to mistake A Simple Favor as the next Gone Girl. Expectations be damned, this movie is anything but. The over-the-top melodrama, ridiculous twists, and convoluted story makes the film a clear satire of every single trope that define the thriller and mystery genres.

Turning the genre on its head, A Simple Favor is a refreshing, clever idea held back by its plot. Its farcical, nonsensical plot leaves the movie floating from joke to joke without much real purpose. Presenting everything and the kitchen sink, there are “twists” aplenty. Within the first act, Emily’s fate is revealed, paving the way for a constant game of one-upping the last big reveal to fill the remainder of screentime. With all the crazy twists, it eventually starts to feel like you’ve been staring at a murder board in your basement as you string together all the various clues after you were kicked off the force and have neglected to go outside or shower for several days. Twists are so outlandish it’s numbing. Granted, it’s a satire and this is pretty much the whole point. But it ends up as a detriment to its success. The jokes inspired by the plot are surface level and hollow, cheapening what could have been a better film.

Yet the campiness gives the film plenty of charm. Director Paul Feig, director-writer for just about every Melissa McCarthy movie and sitcoms including Freaks & Geeks and The Office, maintains his outlandish humor in what turns out to be a guilty pleasure dark comedy. Where Feig seems to shine is in ensemble comedies, and he’s able to capture a small taste of what he delivered with Bridesmaids.

The characters and actors are the highlight of A Simple Favor, overshadowing its lackluster story. Lively, Kendrick, and Golding deliver the perfect performances as their characters. Lively especially is able to captivate, somehow perfectly being ridiculously bizarre yet not distracting or unbelievable. Their relationships and opposing personalities is a delight, providing an insane and entertaining dynamic. Their chemistry is undeniable and their dialogue kept the theater in stitches. There is no shortage of hilarity, and even though they have a tough sell with all of the ever-changing narrative shifts, they truly deliver.

For a film that doesn’t take itself seriously, A Simple Favor could have probably benefitted from taking its plot a little more seriously. Rather than trying everything and hoping something pans out, a more clever approach would have been appreciated. Yet it’s still a guilty pleasure, endlessly entertaining with some of the best comedic performances in a while. It’s not the blockbuster that was Bridesmaids, but it’s certainly one of the better comedies we’ve gotten in quite some time.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Johnny Johnny (Senior Contributor) was born and raised in San Diego. He's been a fan of films the majority of his life. He enjoys the feeling it invokes and the power it has to take you to another place.
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