Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively spark up a blackly comic thriller about double-crossing frenemies, made by an unlikely director
Sharper than your everyday mean girl since the beginning of her career, Blake Lively has always been capable of more than her opportunities have allowed her, while Anna Kendrick, a chipper ‘perfect’ thing in movie after movie, has been overrated. So it’s gratifying to see them both earning their keep in director Paul Feig’s borderline-nutso crime comedy, one that won’t be confused for a new Gone Girl. But even second-rate trashy turnarounds are worth savoring.
A Simple Favour opens in Kendrick’s kitchen: Her Stephanie Smothers (thank you, originating novelist Darcey Bell), a single suburban mom who regularly vlogs to a small audience of likeminded neurotics, has everything under control, yet she’s rattled by the disappearance of her friend, Emily (Lively). In flashbacks, we see that Emily, an acquaintance made while picking up their children at school, is an entirely different species: a Martini-drinking, power-suit-wearing toughie who’s married to Sean (Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding), an unfairly handsome and successful writer.
You wait for the two women to connect across the chasm of Emily’s sleekly designed living room; their attraction – nuanced, brainy and one you wish would go to the obvious place – is what makes the film such an identifiable product of the director of Bridesmaids and the all-female Ghostbusters. Stephanie becomes an amateur sleuth bent on hunting down her gal pal’s whereabouts or, barring that, sliding into her walk-in closet and marital bed. Once A Simple Favour hits the first of several I-can’t-believe-they-went-there moments (there are a few too many), it loses some of its lure, and Feig never quite regains tonal control. But you won’t be bored by this.
Cast and crew