LIONSGATE (2018)

 

Director: Paul Feig

 

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells

Comedy thriller noir satire? Sign me up!

 

Fresh from bustin’ ghosts in 2016’s (wrongly) reviled Ghostbusters , Paul Feig returns with all of the above in A Simple Favor. Without Melissa McCarthy in tow for the first time…in forever, Feig enlists the talents of Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively as his two leads in this twisty tale of love, corruption, deceit, murder and…kind of incest – seriously, it covers a lot of ground.

Over a few weeks and martinis, virtuous Vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Kendrick) befriends PA director and slightly (very) hoity-toity Emily Nelson (Lively) – befriending mainly by babysitting as Emily is seemingly always on the go – and the two share a curious friendship. Emily drinks the days away as her husband Sean (Golding) is a failed writer who isn’t bringing home the cheques to fund her lavish tastes whilst Stephanie hides some familial secrets behind a nice girl persona. One day whilst babysitting, Stephanie finds out Emily has vanished – leaving behind her husband and son – and piecing together the clues of her whereabouts leads to some fascinating and duplicitous revelations.

 

For Feig, this was a slight deviation from his usual offerings. Not being a straight up comedy, A Simple Favor implements the humour along with some mystery, crime and dirty romance – and a bucket load of fun too. Not OTT sink pooping or back and forth quips, but slightly more subtle comedy which worked very well in the confines of this narrative. This has been compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and the similarities are there but key the difference is A Simple Favor is far better than both.

 

The pairing of Kendrick and Lively was a wonderful decision as the two bounce off of each other so well. Polar opposites within the movie, both pull off their roles exquisitely with Kendrick playing the cupcake baking, super sweet single mother and Lively the captivating, bitchy femme fatale of sorts. As we get further into the movie, the wardrobe choices get grander and chic-er and both look great as the mystery deepens. Watch the movie just for these two. Henry Golding continues his rise (following his charming role in Crazy Rich Asians) and he gets a chance to do a bit more here as the father/writer caught in the crossfires.

 

Though the movie shifts tones fairly frequently, it maintains an interesting atmosphere throughout with some nice Hitchcockian techniques/moments. The writing ensures that house of cards remained upright the whole time, however, it did threaten to fall at times before very quickly thundering back on track. There are some great twists to keep the story interesting and I loved them, I’m happy to report I couldn’t fully piece where the mystery was taking me and that’s always a big win for me. As the finale unrolled, certain elements irked me just very slightly, but nowhere near enough for me to down this movie. Were there elements of the plot that were marginally contrived or opportune? Yes, but there’s nothing here that ruins the flow or destroys the thriller aspects.

 

Fans of mystery, noir, and comedy should find themselves having a blast here, similarly, if you have been a fan of Feig previously then that should enjoy this also. Kendrick and Lively are magic together and thunder the movie along through its twists and turns. Intriguing and enticing, A Simple Favor is smart, sexy and a fashionable wardrobe full of fun.

September 22nd 2018

© 2016 Matt Hudson / What I Watched Tonight / Essex

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