A Simple Favor Reviews
A semi-comedic look at the lives of two young mothers in an affluent American suburb, coupled with a mystery plot, A Simple Favour has an undeniable identity crisis due to its genre mash-up characteristics. Although director Paul Feig proves adept at handling the parodic side of things, in the latter stages, he seems to be trying to ensure the film can exist (relatively) un-ironically within the suburban noir genre, the very genre it's attempting to lampoon. Despite this schizophrenic quality, however, it's an undeniably film.
Adapted by Jessica Sharzer from Darcey Bell's 2017 novel, A Simple Favour tells the story of Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick), a widowed single-mum who runs a life hacks vlog with minimal viewership. Enter Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), a public relations executive for a major fashion label. Soon after meeting, the two bond, with Stephanie in awe of Emily, who seems to have it all; a good-looking novelist/lecturer husband, Sean (Henry Golding), a gorgeous house, a successful career, a great kid, and an acerbic attitude that Stephanie would kill for. Several weeks later, with Emily held up at work, she asks Stephanie to pick up her son, and she'll collect him later. Except she doesn't collect him. As a few days go by, Stephanie and Sean report her missing. However, unsatisfied with the direction the investigation is taking, Stephanie is soon amateur sleuthing her way across the country.
A Simple Favour is at its best when working as a parody of "mommy murder mysteries", gently (and often not so gently) exposing some of its more unrealistic tropes to ridicule. For example, the three main characters are all generic templates to the point of cliche; the ingenue who feels honour-bound to do everything she can to find the truth; the sardonic and caustic plot catalyst, who always seems to have an ace up her sleeve; and, the brilliant but frustrated spouse who may, or may not, be in on the crime. However, their archetypal characteristics are dialled up to such a degree that they can't help but seem caricatures.
Opening with a late Saul Bass-esque title sequence, scored to Jean Paul Keller's "Ca s'est arrange" (1967), the film signals its playful tone right from the off. The emphasis on stylisation is perhaps seen most clearly upon Emily's introduction. As Stephanie shelters from the rain, Emily emerges from a car in slow motion, with the camera starting on her feet before slowly moving up to her head as she raises an umbrella. Cutting to a mid-shot, she then begins to walk across the carpark (still in slow motion), as a broken umbrella blows past her, replacing the tumbleweed of a classic western shootout. Apart from being a memorable introduction to the character, the visual design of the scene is predicated on cine-literacy, showing that the filmmakers are more than aware of standard genre tropes, and, more importantly, how to employ them for comedic effect.
Indeed, the entire film revels in its own intertextual awareness, with later references to such defining noirs as Gaslight (1944), Spellbound (1945), and Les diaboliques (1955). Large portions of the film feature narration within narration, a technique so beloved of classic noir mysteries.
If there was one element of that didn't work, however, it was the mystery plot. I get that it's all a satire of the multi-twist-for-twist's-sake suburban murder mystery, with the preposterousness of such plots played for maximum farcicality. However, Feig is unable to bridge the tone of the frothier comic moments and the darker ones which become increasingly prevalent towards the end. For example, the film features a scene in which someone who has just been ploughed by a car and is trying to crawl away is nonchalantly told if they don't stop, they're going to hurt their knees. That's pretty dark, but it's also pretty funny. However, it comes only moments after a scene in which a drug-addict is held under the water and drowned. Not a huge amount to laugh at there.
For all that, however, I found A Simple Favour most enjoyable. The purely-satirical early scenes earn enough goodwill so that the more plot-heavy later scenes don't completely tear the whole thing down. The film as a whole shines a not unwelcome light on the increasingly self-important suburban noir, and for the most part, the parody is very well judged. When the comedy is forced to retreat in the service of more serious material, the tonal balance is definitely knocked off, but despite this, A Simple Favour remains very entertaining. It won't change your life, but it's a rewarding couple of hours.
good actresses and is quite funny. i would recommend this movie for anyone who wants to watch a good tale