With Paul Feig being known as a comedic director, it was weird seeing his name attached to a project that didn’t seem to focus on getting laughs. That’s why taking on a movie like A Simple Favor appeared to be a risk as it looks to be more of a serious thriller than anything else. On the surface, it had the makings of a train wreck, but that’s not exactly what I got when I sat down to watch this. Instead of this being a horrible miscalculation on Feig’s part, it showed he’s actually has greater range than many of us originally thought.
The life of a mommy vlogger named Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) becomes more exciting once she befriends Emily (Blake Lively), the busy mother of a child from her son’s class. For the single mother, this offers up the type of friendship that she never thought about having, but it also opens her up to a life altering mystery once her new best friend vanishes without warning. Joined by Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding), Stephanie becomes determined to uncover the truth behind what’s really happening.
The reason behind making this movie was obvious since Ghostbusters, Feig’s last comedic project before it bombed incredibly hard at the box office. Including myself, most people didn’t like it and felt that he was beginning to struggle with finding his place as a director. Because of this, you knew he would have to do something to redeem himself, so getting behind the camera to direct (and co-write) A Simple Favor turned out to be a wise choice for him.
Since I knew this was some kind of mystery, I was locked in from the start. Paying attention to everything helps you get into what’s taking place, and the story does well in bringing you along for the ride. The two actresses (Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively) assist in doing this as well since they are so well cast and perform remarkably in their roles. Henry Golding as good and fit his role as well, but he wasn’t as impactful as the other two for obvious reasons.
The movie itself is intriguing and manages to pull you in with everything they’re unwrapping in the early going. There’s a feeling of escalation as things become stranger and more complicated for the characters that we’re introduced to. This led me to believe that I was watching a movie that may fit into my top ten list for the year if it kept moving on this upward trajectory. Sadly, that didn’t happen as A Simple Favor couldn’t maintain that level of quality over time.
The main reason for this was due to the layers that A Simple Favor has to unpack. With it being a mystery, you shouldn’t be shocked by the fact that this picture has some unloading to do. You also know that paying attention to what’s being offered to you as a spectator is of the utmost important. If you don’t, you could potentially be in trouble keeping up with everything that’s happening.
That could be seen as somewhat of a warning to those who decide to see this. While A Simple Favor is definitely a movie worth seeing, it does manage to overextend itself by adding way too many twists and turns to what’s going on. Based on what we have through a large chunk of it, there isn’t a need to do this and we have a perfectly good movie before it starts throwing everything at us like it does.
Another issue that comes from this is that some of what we’re introduced to isn’t actually needed and is never resolved. Thinking back on it, there are some things you could have taken out without changing the movie at all. When some of this stuff is first introduced, they’re actually pretty interesting, but they don’t really add anything and they end up being unnecessary by the time the film reaches the end.
The craziest part about all of this is that the movie could have been even longer. What stops that from taking place was the decision to use exposition to tie up a significant portion of what’s been laid out for us over the course of the movie. Revealing so much using this method felt cheap in this instance. I’m thinking that attempting to develop these portions of A Simple Favor may have been too complicated for them to work under the “show, don’t tell” rule, so simply explaining it through words may have just been the easiest way to resolve it. I guess this is my way of saying the movie may have been too clever for its own good.
All of the negatives prevent A Simple Favor from being as great as I thought it could have been. They aren’t able to cancel out the good qualities that it has, but they don’t allow for it to reach the heights I didn’t think it even had a chance to achieve. So while I didn’t love it, I certainly enjoyed it and a came out realizing that Paul Feig is more than capable of making high quality movies. He just has to figure out how to rein it in a little more.
Director: Paul Feig
Film Length: 116 minutes
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Distributor: Lionsgate Films
- Score - 7/107/10