by Alan Yudman
Can you do me A SIMPLE FAVOR? Go see this movie. It is the best combination of comedy and noir, mystery-thriller. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It is in reality a mystery-thriller that has some funny parts.
Anna Kendrick is a Mommy-Vlogger who meets Blake Lively, the mom of one of her son’s classmates. Kendrick’s Stephanie Smothers is kind of the Mom every other parent hates. She bakes stuff, volunteers for everything and is excruciatingly bubbly. She meets Blake Lively’s Emily when their sons demand a playdate. Emily is an uber-successful public relations executive for a New York designer. That’s who they both appears to be on the surface.. but the theme of this movie is that everyone has secrets in their past. And they all come bubbling to the surface as Emily disappears and Stephanie becomes an amateur sleuth, obsessed with finding her “best friend”.
The best part of this movie is Lively. She is a modern day Barbara Stanwyck or Lauren Bacall. Yeah, I know that’s quite the high bar. But trust me, she lives up to the comparison. She is amazing. Lively is glamorous, sharp-witted, sexy and mysterious. Without her outstanding performance, I’m not sure this movie would have worked as well.
Kendrick is the best version of herself. The slightly manic pixie, but toned down, more serious and slyly smart. The comedy mostly comes from her character and her timing is flawless. She is an outstanding comic actor. But that shouldn’t short sell her overall ability.
A SIMPLE FAVOR is directed by Paul Feig and written by Jessica Sharzer. The script is good. The directing is wonderful. Feig, who is known for comedies like SPY and BRIDESMAIDS shows he has more tools in his toolbox, arrows in his quiver… however you want to describe it. He gets all the right shots to enhance tension and set the noir tone. There are several scenes that Hitchcock would be proud of. Maybe they were cribbed from the master, but if you’re going to borrow, borrow from the best. The Mommy Vlogger thing isn’t just Stephanie’s job, it becomes an integral part of the story and it’s resolution. It’s an example that really nothing is dismissed as trivial by Feig. And watch for one scene near the end involving a Prius. I laughed out loud and quite inappropriately.
I don’t want to pass by the music. It is mostly French pop and it works perfectly in setting the tone for the film. It was a great choice Feig and Music Supervisor Erica Weis.
I’ve read some reviews that say the movie falls apart at the end. I don’t think it falls apart at all. It becomes a twisty, Hitchcockian thriller where everyone is more than you thought they were. You may not like the resolution or how they get there, but that doesn’t mean if “falls apart”. It’s just a different choice. In this case, I think the choices were perfect. A SIMPLE PLAN is a fabulous movie.