A Simple Favor Comedy

Review: Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are at Their Best in the Mysterious ‘A Simple Favor’

September 14, 2018Britany Murphy

It happens quite often that parents who have children at the same school become friends. However, the friendship that is formed between Stephanie and Emily is anything but conventional. The enigmatic Emily is a mystery not only to the other parents, but also to Stephanie, who is attempting to befriend her. It all leads down a dark and perplexing road, full of twists and turns.

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a blogger, whose videos are geared toward other mothers and young women who partake in the online realm. Clearly a keener, Stephanie is the type who always participates in the PTA and is always the first to sign up for any parent-children activities at her son's elementary school — a trait which seems to leave her at the mercy of the other parents, Sona (Aparna Nancherla), Darren (Andrew Rannells) and Stacy (Kelly McCormack). Generally aloof and never really paying any mind to the other parents from school, Emily steps onto the scene with the wardrobe of a top fashionista without a care in the world.

When picking up her son, Nicky (Ian Ho) from school, Emily is surprised when he quickly begs for a playdate with Stephanie's son, Miles. Unsure of Stephanie, but also unsure if she can stomach a playdate alone, Emily invites Stephanie along. With no real friends to speak of, Stephanie is hesitant at first, but eventually decides to take a gamble and trots off with Emily and their two sons to the bewilderment of the Sona, Darren and Stacy. Surprisingly, the very different duo end up hitting it off and this first unintentional meeting ends up becoming a friendship, even despite Emily warning Stephanie, "Oh no. You do not want to be friends with me."

However, not all is as it seems. One day, after asking Stephanie if she could pick up Nicky from school and watch him until she was finished work, Emily goes missing. Stephanie calls Emily's husband, Sean (Henry Golding), and lets him know that Nicky is safe at her house, but that Emily has yet to stop by and pick their son up and is not answering her cell phone. Sean rushes over to pick up Nicky and the hunt for Emily begins, setting off a chain of unthinkable events and bringing moviegoers along for the ride.

Based on the debut novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favor is director Paul Feig's latest and a departure from his past work on films such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and Ghostbusters. Still in keeping with his theme of having women in lead roles, Feig's take on A Simple Favor is refreshing and will likely be an audience-pleaser. Much like the book, the film relies on the unreliable narrator technique and it works extremely well. Throughout the movie, you are never one hundred percent certain who is trustworthy. Is there an elaborate set up going on, are characters weaving a never-ending web of lies? Are they allowing their emotions make their testimonies less credible? Or all of the above? For the majority of the film, it is hard to tell, and coupled with great performances by the cast, this is what makes it good.

Kendrick and Lively are great in their respective roles. The former plays the fun-loving and keen mommy blogger to perfection. Balancing the line between likeable and slight annoying, Kendrick still manages to have you rooting for Stephanie as she tries to navigate life, friendship and the sudden whirlwind fit for a murder-mystery that she’s been sucked into. As for Lively, she plays the role of the enigmatic Emily with ease. As much as Stephanie tries to get to know her, there is always something so hard to grasp when it comes to Emily, like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands. Lively is cool and charismatic as Emily. so much so that it's hard to picture anyone else in the role. Lively definitely nails it.

The result combines many elements including comedy, mystery and romance, and manages to use all of these elements well. They all play to the story in their own particular way and it truly brings together the complexity of the overall narrative. If you're looking for the unexpected, A Simple Favor is definitely worth the watch.

A Simple Favor releases September 14th, 2018 from eOne Films. The film has an MPAA rating of R for sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nude images, drug use and violence. Its runtime is 1 hr. 57 min.

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