Review: A Simple Favour

Paul Feig’s bizarre homage to classic ‘woman in trouble’ thrillers and modern coffee table whodunnits is passably entertaining and entirely elevated by the performances of its two leads (and a pretty kickass soundtrack to be fair, I mean the songs used not the OST so it’s hard to give it too many points for just using Françoise Hardy and April March but it’s cool that they’re there). It’s rare that female leads get the opportunity to properly get their teeth into some scenery, and Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are having fun playing up their personas. Kendrick plays a ‘perfect mum’ befriended by the mysterious Lively who promptly disappears. Imagine if Gone Girl was told from the POV of the mom Amy befriended.

Like any other Feig movie it’s quite badly edited, it’s not weighted down by too much improv the way his other films are but it still needlessly dog paddles its way to 120 minutes with pointless subplots, flashbacks and backstories with no payoff. There’s a lot here that just should’ve been cut out and even more that feels like it has been and there’s an egregious specific cut early on when Lively completely removes her right cuff twice. There are also less than a handful of funny lines and it all felt a little too tame, it has a sexy cast and sexy premise, the central trio have great chemistry and I’d have enjoyed a more focused movie centred on the three of them than one that gets so bogged down in constructing a convoluted story that isn’t very interesting anyway. I wouldn’t call it a predictable movie but there’s no shock or drama to any of the reveals and it kept foreshadowing things that never happened. It needed to get crazier as it kept threatening to but never did, Feig clearly loves the idea of doing a thriller so a lot of it is played straight and a lot of the run time is spent just being a below par mystery movie where occasionally someone does something goofy. Although Kendrick and Lively are great fun, as with Crazy Rich Asians Henry Golding is charming and sexy but not actually a very good actor. There’s a scene where the kids are meant to be fighting and it’s quite shockingly bad.

The biggest problem with the movie is just that with the exception of the comic moments where he gets some really good performances, I seriously can’t overstate how charming Anna Kendrick is, Feig is just a mediocre director. With someone more talented who would have known better how to structure the story and make some really toothy choices, this could have been really, really fun, like as if Brian de Palma had directed Charade. As it is, we’ve got Les Diaboliques with approximately 80% more shtick, and it’s fun but not all it could have been.