Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Director: Paul Feig
Running Time: 117 mins
A Simple Favour is an American film about a single mother who becomes engrossed in an unpredictable case as she strives to uncover the reasons behind her best friend’s mysterious disappearance.
I had a huge amount of fun with A Simple Favour, largely because it’s a completely insane film. Although it starts off with a fairly relaxed pace and simple mystery atmosphere, the film turns into a brilliantly ludicrous and topsy-turvy thriller by the end, taking cues from the likes of Gone Girl and turning the dial up beyond even eleven, but ultimately making for a film that’s full of excitement and surprises, which makes for an undeniably and unapologetically entertaining watch.
But before I get into that, I want to talk about the first half of the film, which is a lot more grounded. For starters, the performances of Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are the stand-outs in the opening half. Kendrick is hugely likable as the hard-working but still fun-loving young single mother, while Lively proves a stark contrast as she plays a mysterious and unpredictable woman with bizarre behaviour for a mother in a small town.
Both are great to watch throughout, yet they keep their characters convincing and realistic enough that their relationship never feels particularly off-the-wall, as some of the movie’s more outlandish elements do in the latter stages.
I will say that the film’s first half, although more grounded and a little more impressive, isn’t all that engrossing, as it takes a good while for the main mystery to really kick into gear, and there isn’t quite enough suspense and uncertainty created by the screenplay or director Paul Feig over the course of the first act. Those two performances keep it an engaging watch, as well as some good comedy and slick cinematography to boot, but I will warn you to be a little patient with A Simple Favour over the course of the first half.
That patience, however, really pays off, with the explosion of the main thriller story as the movie really kicks into gear about halfway through. Although it at first seems like a simple knock-off of Gone Girl, it soon becomes apparent that there is more to this story, particularly as we see Anna Kendrick’s character take on the uncomfortable role of effectively replacing Blake Lively, both looking after her young son as well as helping out around the house with the bemused husband.
That’s one of the more interesting and grounded parts of the film’s second act, and the relationship that develops between Anna Kendrick and the spectre of Blake Lively despite her disappearance is a fascinating one, something that even Gone Girl doesn’t tap into in such a way.
Then, all hell breaks loose, as the movie explodes into action in the final act, mounting twist upon twist upon twist upon twist. You’ve seen great thrillers, Gone Girl, Psycho, Diabolique and more, but I can guarantee that you’ve never seen a thriller with as many twists as A Simple Favour, a film that somehow manages to upend everything that you’ve come to expect over the preceding two acts again and again and again, cramming handfuls of insane twists and revelations into a few minutes at times, and yet managing to create a hugely entertaining and exhilarating movie experience as a result.
And the strange thing is, as ludicrous as everything in the movie seems (I won’t spoil any details here), the screenplay is really rather watertight. Some characters do act in rather cartoonish fashion when the story needs them to, with Kendrick and Lively regularly having to act in a completely different manner to what you’ve come to expect, which can prove frustrating at times. And yet, the screenplay always assures that there’s enough evidence to back up whatever ludicrous twist is coming up next, with the final ten minutes really standing out as your attention is thrown to and fro between all sorts of possible outcomes.
Is it a bit of messy watch? Yes, but the fact of the matter is is that there’s so much energy and ingenuity to everything about A Simple Favour that it’s really very entertaining to watch regardless, going all out with a brilliantly insane thriller story that, while not perfect or particularly grounded, is hugely entertaining to watch right up to the end, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.7 overall.