Simply put, Paul Feig’s “A Simple Favor” aims too high and falls short, as the film attempts to combine two genres that rarely succeed even by themselves: comedy and thriller.
Based on the Darcey Bell’s novel, Feig’s mystery thriller stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, best friends who drink fancy martinis and share their darkest secrets until things goes awry. Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a naive widowed mom who constantly vlogs and cares for her son, Miles (Joshua Satine). Her online tutorials on baking and making friendship bracelets don’t last too long with her “best friend,” Emily (Blake Lively), who works for a famous fashion brand and carries herself in an aggressive way toward everyone.
Surprisingly, Stephanie’s gentle and bright nature mixes well with Emily’s darkness. However, everything goes south when Emily asks Stephanie for “a simple favor”: to look after her son for a couple hours. Emily agrees, but a couple hours turn into a day. One day leads to two. Only when Emily’s husband, Sean (Henry Golding), returns from his trip does the community start searching for Emily, who seems to have disappeared.
“A Simple Favor” is filled with reversals and deception that seem over-the-top. Feig clearly wanted to establish a light-hearted beginning to buckle viewers in for the rough ride ahead. Throughout the film, both Kendrick and Lively are amazing in their respective roles and establish great chemistry with each other. Kendrick flourishes as Stephanie shines in awkward and timid moments next to Emily’s dark nature. Stephanie also undergoes the most character development, yet her thoughts are incomplete. There are many scenes which fail to capture her thoughts, leaving viewers confused about some of her decisions toward the end of the film. It seemed as if Feig decided to rush the last few scenes just to get a quick ending. Toward the end, the twists and turns that lead to the ending of the movie eventually became overwhelming. This causes confusion in Stephanie’s character — and in the audience, who continued alternating from laughter from Stephanie’s quirky laugh to periods of scared silence throughout the film.
Surprisingly, Stephanie’s warmness isn’t enough to change Emily’s cold-hearted character. Despite any lack of character development, Lively steals the show during the first act of “A Simple Favor.” She is alluring on-screen, nailing her role of being highly manipulative and crude.
Ultimately, Feig fails to pull everything together in “A Simple Favor,” especially missing the target when he tries to make the movie simultaneously a comedy and a thriller. His approach to the mystery-thriller was more underwhelming than in his previous projects, such as “Ghostbusters.” Though Feig’s lighthearted introduction establishes the movie as a comedy, the transition to a darker tone with Emily’s disappearance is a bumpy one. Additionally, Emily’s disappearance is supposed to be serious, but the movie couldn’t shake off the initial light mood.
Despite the odd medley of comedy and thriller, certain scenes featured stunning frames and intense music, showing that the film had the potential to be an excellent thriller. When Stephanie receives a night phone call from Emily, for example, Stephanie’s scared voice and the ominous soundtrack brings viewers to the edges of their seats.
“A Simple Favor” starts well, but Feig fails to pull everything together and execute effectively. However, the cast is impeccable — Kendrick and Lively steal the show with applause-worthy performances. From loud laughs to soft gasps, “A Simple Favor” is worth watching.