The teaser trailer for A Simple Favour really didn’t give anything away, and it’s all that I saw prior to actually going to the film. Understandably, I went in uneducated and with incredibly low expectations, consoled only by the fact that Blake Lively, the woman whose aesthetic I hope to someday inherit, would be in it.
The good thing about having the bar set so low is that said expectations are very easily exceeded, and it turns out that I needn’t have worried anyway because A Simple Favour was very, very good.
Directed by Paul Feig, the film follows single mum Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) as she unravels the truth about the disappearance of her best friend, Emily Nelson (Blake Lively). Stephanie and Emily are total opposites, what with the prior being a stereotypical and picture-perfect stay-at-home mum, and the latter being a career-driven woman who seemingly stumbled into motherhood.
Having not been friends long, the two quickly assume the role of ‘besties’ and when Emily asks of Stephanie a simple favour – to pick up her son from school – Stephanie obliges. From that point forward, Feig leads us through a maze of murder, money, lust and perverted love as Stephanie searches for answers as to Emily’s sudden disappearance.
A mystery film at its core, A Simple Favour also has layers of comedy, drama and crime, with many a dark secret being revealed throughout. Both Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick share an electric on-screen chemistry with actor Henry Golding, who plays Emily’s morally ambiguous husband, Sean Townsend. The three construct a sexual tension that is almost palpable, making the audience question Sean’s integrity as a partner.
Based on the book by Darcey Bell and adapted to the screen by Jessica Sharzer, the writing is clever and punctual, allowing us to extract new layers of substance from each of the characters as the film progresses. The comic relief sprinkled throughout makes the heavy tale a little lighter and even in the direst of moments, cordially serves to ease the tension. A Simple Favour is a modern mystery that exposes the façade of perfection, reminding us that nothing is ever as it seems.
This was Paul Feig’s second non-comedy based film since I Am David (2003). It is darker when compared to many of the other films he previously directed.