A Simple Favor (2018)
Director – Paul Feig
Writer – Jessica Sharzer, Darcey Bell
Starring – Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
Rating – R
Genre – Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Metascore – 68/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 83%
A Simple Favor stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively in roles that allow them to flex both their comedic and dramatic muscles, and both actors put forth exceptional performances. In addition, the film contains moments of both hilarious comedy and heart-pounding thrills. However, a wildly dissonant tone and a screenplay too dependant on twists and surprises leave A Simple Favor as a bit of a complicated mess.
A Simple Favor focuses on Stephanie (Kendrick), a single mom and mildly popular vlogger who befriends the incredibly cool and mysterious Emily (Lively). Her life changes dramatically when she realizes Emily was not the person she originally thought. Both Lively and Kendrick excel in this story, which waivers between mystery-thriller and comedy. Luckily, both of these actors have dramatic chops as well as comedic timing. Because of this, scenes with both are exceptional, and there are a good enough number for an overall enjoyable experience. In fact, the film is full of great moments. There are scenes that had me doubled over in laughter, and others that had me jumping in surprise or terror. A Simple Favor contains enough piecemeal laughs and thrills to sustain a great movie, but not in a cohesive, sensical fashion.
Director Paul Feig’s choice to incorporate aspects of both thriller and comedy does not work as intended. More than not, the film feels dissonant, and without identity; moving from thriller to near horror to slapstick comedy at breakneck speeds. In my theater, these whiplash-inducing tonal shifts led to the audience either missing jokes entirely, or laughing at lines that were absolutely not meant to be funny. The presence of wonderful moments of hilarity and terror convince me that had Feig leaned further toward one genre or another would have made for a much more cohesive film.
In addition to tonal dissonance, A Simple Favor is more concerned with plot twists and big character surprises rather than telling a concise, compelling story. At nearly two hours, the film could have easily benefited from shaving minutes. With unnecessary flashbacks that proved to not affect character motivations or decisions, A Simple Favor dawdles on the way to its conclusion, and is forced to sprint through it, tossing twists and “Aha!” moments at the audience at a pace difficult to keep up with.
Lively and Kendrick are both stellar performers, and A Simple Favor gives both ample opportunity to show off every facet of their talent. Unfortunately, the film is one without a clear identity, dashing between thriller and comedy at dizzying speeds. Had wiser decisions been made in the adaptation, as well as in the editing room, A Simple Favor could have been something more than the only somewhat fun mess it was.
Author: Josh Johnson