A Simple Favor is a 2018 mystery thriller film directed by Paul Fieg. It stars Anna Kendrick and Blake lively, along with lesser known but talented actors Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Linda Cardellini, Rupert Friend and Jean Smart.
The film is based on the book of the same name, written by Darcey. I'm not certain what artistic liberties Feig made with the film version, but the book is said to be comparable to Gone Girl, except 'gone nuclear.' It was also compared to The Girl on the Train.
The film tells the story of a prim and proper widow, Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), who runs a mommy-vlog about crafts and recipes while caring for her young son. Stephanie is a super-mom who volunteers for every mom-event and school task, much to the humor of other parents. However, secretly, Stephanie is a very lonely and apologetic person.
Enter Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), a powerful businesswoman who takes no guff and cares about nobody aside from her son and husband (which is questionable). Ever the busy woman, Emily needs a nanny but apparently she can't keep any. UNTIL ONE DAY Stephanie offers Emily to watch over her son. (The kids are best buddies.) Thus begins the one-sided friendship between Stephanie and Emily. Until Emily fails to pick up her so evening...
Stephanie is so lonely and in need of a friend that Emily instantly zeroes in on her as prey. So desperate is Stephanie that Emily manages to get Stephanie to admit some of her dark secrets... and it turns out Stephanie isn't as innocent and proper as we think. Not long after, we are introduced to Emily's husband, Sean. Emily hates Sean but whenever they're together she's all over him! Is she doing this to mock Stephanie's loneliness?
As the film progresses Stephanie becomes more and more enamored with Emily... and her husband. And not that this is a spoiler (since it says it in the trailers) but when Emily fails to pick up her son one day, Sean comes over to Stephanie's house about the problem. Turns out Emily disappears every now and then when Emily thinks someone can take care of their son! Scandalous!
Good lord, I've got to say, this is one stylish film. It may not seem like that at first since as it's very organic. But whenever Stephanie or Emily is portrayed as innocent you get them wearing cocktail dresses from the 1970's. (Just think of the wife, Betty, in the former AMC series, Mad Men, which ran from 2007 to 2015.) This is the ideal wife. However, whenever they portray them as breaking from that norm either they wear dark clothes or a modified business suit. In fact, Emily's Business suit is rather powerful, if a bit off-putting.
I also have to say for the first half of the film it is a fucking solid film. So solid, in fact, that while watching it I remembered Paul Feig, the director, was also the director of Ghostbusters (2016), the reboot; I was like, "Man! This guy is fucking good! Shit! Maybe I'll try and watch Ghostbusters (2016) just in case the reviews were wrong!" Unfortunately, halfway through the film, the film takes a sudden nose dive onto a dark path. Though it recovers from the dark plot point an investigation begins that consumes the rest of the film.
Though I don't really understand why Stephanie is so obsessed with unearthing Emily's past, it is an interesting journey. Plenty of humor and interesting revelations, but never at any point do I think Stephanie should be investigating Emily. In fact, it would've been smarter for Stephanie just to abandon the journey and take her son and leave. But then we wouldn't have a movie!
The only real bad part of the film is the last thirty minutes, which probably didn't need to be there at all. It felt like they didn't know what to do with it. One moment things are going one way. Then a twist happens and events are flipped on their head. "Ha ha! I fooled you!" "No, you stupid bitch! It is in fact that I'm the one who fooled you!" "Oh, yeah, bitch! I knew you would think of that. So I anticipated it and fooled you instead!" "Ah, fuck it! Let's stop fooling each other and blame everything on the husband." "Yeah! I hate men, too!"
But I think I must've gotten something wrong. While I hated the last thirty minutes and also called out once, complaining for the movie to end, the rest of the audience was laughing and eating it all up. Twist after crappy twist they were laughing their little hinds off. I bet it had something to do with the book.
As I mentioned earlier, Paul Feig is the same director who made Ghostbusters (2016). Never saw that thing; couldn't handle my childhood being shat upon. So I was skeptical of going into this film. But I'd say about 80% of the film was really solid. And as someone who appreciates the semiotics and mis-en-scene, I've added Paul Feig to my list of directors who mostly know what they're doing.
A Simple Favor scores decently high critics; 84% on Rotten Tomatoes and 67/100 for Metacritic. Audiences don't trail that far behind on Rotten Tomotaoes at 79%. Personally, I love the acting, art direction, and tone. Aside from the hiccup at the Midpoint and the wonky ending, I'll give it a 3/5 stars. That means I didn't regret seeing it but wouldn't exactly recommend others to see it.
Check out the awesome trailer below!
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