And that name is Blake Lively (XOXO Gossip Girl).
Don’t watch the trailer. Don’t read any detailed plot synopsis online. Just stop what you’re doing, go see A Simple Favor and thank me later.
That’s the best way to approach this movie, as not knowing the twists or what’s going to happen next is half the fun.
A Simple Favor is a new film from director Paul Feig. Feig is best known for directing female-led comedies, such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and, most recently, Ghostbusters. Apparently, all the backlash that Ghostbusters got left him in a sour mood (I didn’t think it was a bad movie. Not great, but I still laughed a lot) as he’s now switching gears into a totally new genre.
That genre is a dark mystery/thriller that’s very much in the same vein as an Alfred Hitchcock movie, yet still manages to sneak some laughs in every now and then.
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick, aka the love my of life) and Emily (Blake Lively) aren’t the kinds of people who would normally be friends.
Stephanie is a widowed mommy-blogger who spends most of the time either in the kitchen or in her son, Miles’ (Joshua Satine), classroom. She loves to lend a hand to the point where it becomes obnoxious and she’s completely oblivious to all of it.
Emily lives in a huge mansion with her husband, Sean (Henry Golding of Crazy Rich Asians), and son, Nicky (Ian Ho). She’s less of a hands-on kind of mother, as she spends most of her time working and drinking martinis instead of conforming to a wife’s traditional duties.
Yet, the two somehow manage to spark some kind of relationship when both of their sons are put in the same classroom and become friends, as they begin spending more and more time together.
Neither of them are stupid, either. They aren’t blind to the fact that they live completely different lives, as both of them wisely chose to not reveal every one of their secrets to one another. Still, this is the first female friendship that both of them have had in some time now, so it doesn’t mean anything at all to either of them.
At least, that’s what Stephanie thought. One day, while in the middle of her latest blog, Stephanie gets a call from Emily asking if she can pick up Nicky from school. She happily agrees, thinking nothing of it.
Emily doesn’t come to get Nicky later that night. Nor do she the following morning, or any day after that. She’s straight-up gone missing.
Eventually, Sean comes to get Nicky, and tells Stephanie not to worry about anything because Emily is always pulling off stunts like this. But that’s not enough for her. She wants to know what happened.
That brings Stephanie into a web of lies and deceit, far bigger than she ever realized. Before she even knows what is happening, Stephanie hasn’t just fallen into that web but has begun contributing to it in her own ways.
There’s a lot of different directions you can take a premise like that. Alfred Hitchcock took an idea like that and made, like, 100 different movies out of it, and David Fincher recently approached similar subject matter when he made Gone Girl.
While there’s definitely some Gone Girl in A Simple Favor, Feig has made this movie his own thing, entirely — a thing which happens to be a lot of fun.
Really, it is. The premise behind the movie may not scream ‘fun,’ but he’s having a good time really exploring this world, these characters and all the twists that then ensue.
What’s more important is the fact that he actually knows how to pull them off. We’ve seen a lot of movies before A Simple Favor try to tap into the idea of making a movie so full of twists and turns that the audience is always trying to guess what’s coming next. A lot of them fail to do so because they either make it overly-complicated or overly-stupid.
A Simple Favor hits the nail right on the head. You don’t see any of the reveals coming, but there aren’t so many of them were the movie gets completely lost on you, either. The pacing of when those reveals come might not be smoothed out perfectly (the second half moves a LOT faster than the first half), but watching everything unfold piece-by-piece creates a tense mystery that I really enjoyed.
One of other the big reasons why A Simple Favor works is because of the characters.
Both Stephane and Emily are two of the better written female characters that I’ve seen on screen in 2018. Both of them have their own motivations and desired, but they’re also both complicated, multi-layered and, above all, flawed.
Stephanie begins the movie being totally oblivious to the outside world (which Kendrick can play so well). Throughout the movie, then, we see her grow and evolve because of Emily, eventually turning becoming her own persona and threat that exists entirely outside of her best friend. It might seem like a bit of a stretch, but A Simple Favor sets up that arch so well that you buy every step of it.
Emily is basically the femme fatale character, except she’s not reduced to just one emotion. She might want to be the mastermind behind this whole situation, but she’s also a human being who has different emotions and wants. I can’t really go into what those wants are without spoiling the movie, but there are things that she chooses to do that make her so much more complex than I initially gave her credit for during the first act.
I’m also just kind of in love with the world that Feig created for A Simple Favor. The movie really plays out like a modern-day noir, even down to the little things like Emily’s wardrobe and the constant martini drinking. Things are heightened, not to the point where they’re overly ridiculous or anything, but just enough to really draw in and keep our attention.
A Simple Favor is one of the bigger surprises of 2018. Paul Feig proves he’s not a director who has to stay in his lane but can really do a lot when he’s presented with ideas like this. I want to see him do more movies like this. I want to see more movies like this in general. Hollywood, pay attention.
Watch the trailer for A Simple Favor here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of the movie!
'A Simple Favor' review: Classy has a name8