People will compare A Simple Favor to other thrillers like Gone Girl and A Girl on the Train. While there are similarities, A Simple Favor is much more outrageous and offbeat than its predecessors. This is in large part due to its director, cast and source material—a novel of the same name. I went in expecting another tired thriller plot littered with obvious clues and one-dimensional characters. Instead, I was treated to a stylish, comedic and intriguing film that had me replaying what I’d just seen over and over.
Based on Darcey Bell’s novel, A Simple Favor introduces us to two very different women. Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a single mom to her son Miles. When she’s not volunteering for every school-sponsored activity, Stephanie hosts a mom vlog (video blog). Meanwhile, Emily (Blake Lively) is a powerhouse public relations executive with a few too many vices. The two women befriend each other over a play date, chugging gin martinis and swapping secrets. In Stephanie’s eyes, Emily, along with her husband Sean (Henry Golding) and son Nicky, have a perfect life. It’s not until Emily mysteriously disappears that Stephanie realizes how little she knows about her newfound best friend.
Director Paul Feig’s most notable credentials include Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters and Freaks & Geeks, which is why it is such a surprise. The movie has its comedic moments, but unlike his other work, these moments are peppered in between the much darker ones. Movies like A Simple Favor, which change the tone from scene to scene, either work or don’t. This one works because of Feig’s confidence behind the camera, as well as his spot on casting — and direction — of Kendrick and Lively.
Anna Kendrick has a knack for playing uptight squares, and Stephanie is seemingly no different. Kendrick’s quirky mannerisms fool you into thinking she’s not capable of handling herself. However, you start to wonder if Stephanie’s awkward, wholesome appeal is nothing more than a façade. Lively’s Emily represents the other end of the spectrum. She’s impulsive, cruel and lacks basic maternal skills.
Simply put, Emily is a monster, and you can tell that Lively is enjoying every minute of playing against type. Even at her most vulnerable, Emily is nothing more than a mystery, closed off from the rest of the world, including Stephanie.
I wish I could reveal how the plot progresses but saying any more would spoil the fun you will have navigating the shocking twist and turns of this unexpected thriller.