As if Alfred Hitchcock directed Gone Girl with his tongue firmly plated within his cheek, A Simple Favour is a delightfully twisted neo-noir comedic thriller that’s almost too clever for its own good. I say almost as it becomes evidently clear in the film’s early stages that director Paul Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer (working off Darcey Bell’s novel) are acutely aware of the entangled trash they are working with, allowing the film to dangerously swerve outside the lines without ever evoking a fear it will crash and burn.
As much as the advertising campaign for A Simple Favour would have you believe this film is coming from the darker mindset of director Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy), this is still very much a witty, laugh-out-loud type affair, just in place of sight gags and sequences devoted to the physical comedy prowess of his usual comedienne cohorts its streaks of brutality and wry, weaponised dialogue that sharpens the suspense as opposed to subverting it.
Unlike the aforementioned Gone Girl which shocked its receptive audience with humourless grim, A Simple Favour is never without a knowing wink as it introduces us to mummy vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick, perfectly manic), a super-parent of sorts who is in the midst of utilising her digital platform to its fullest potential by informing her followers of the mystery that is the disappearance of her best friend Emily Nelson (Blake Lively delivering one of the year’s most exciting performances). Both are quick off the trigger to refer to the other as their best friend, though just one look at the polar opposite aesthetics of Stephanie and Emily should tip anyone off that this friendship is hardly one based on mutual respect, but their arrival in each other’s lives proves necessary at their current junction.
To delve further into plot specifics would be doing both the film and any interested viewer a massive disservice as A Simple Favour is the epitome of a title that’s best viewed when you know next to nothing about what’s to come in the ensuing 117 minutes. Uncovering dark secrets regarding the pasts of both Emily and Stephanie is a given, not to mention the is-he-or-isn’t-he temperament afforded to Emily’s smarmy husband (Crazy Rich Asians man-candy Henry Golding), but no matter what road you think Feig will travel down, he makes a habit of hook-turning at the last possible moment – sans indicator too – because he knows he can absolutely get away with it.
Ultimately it’s Kendrick and Lively that prove A Simple Favour’s most valuable assets though, their dedication as both individual components and a cohesive unit lending the film a grace that’s ironically void of vanity. So often the bubbly lead, Kendrick’s usual manic-come-sarcastic nature is dialled up exponentially, giving her character an air of unreliability as she recounts her story – an obvious ploy to keep us at bay as we decipher what exactly is going on. And then there’s Lively defiantly slinking on-screen with the fatal poise of a Hitchcock blonde, strutting in absolute glee as the icy Emily. Proving an absolute knock-out in the type of performance that could easily be overplayed in the wrong hands, Lively is effortless in her capabilities of playing affably ruthless.
Serving airport novel realness to maximum effect, A Simple Favour is camp, overtly sexual cinema that owns its far-fetched nature and runs with it in the most unashamed fashion. Get out there and bask in the ridiculous glory of this film, you’ll be doing yourself an immense favour.
About A Simple Favour
A Simple Favour, directed by Paul Feig, centers around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town.
A Simple Favour (M) is screening in Australian cinemas from 13th September 2018.