A Simple Favour

In Cinemas Now

Oscar nominee Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) leads this missing person mystery as a mummy vlogger in a small town trying to discover the truth behind the disappearance of her incredibly cool but enigmatic new friend, played by Blake Lively (The Shallows). From director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), based on the novel by Darcy Bell and co-starring Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding.

Trailers

Directed by

Written by

Crime, Mystery, Thriller

117mins

Rating: M Sex scenes, violence, drug use & offensive language

USA

On first impression, a thriller is an unlikely genre for director Paul Feig to tackle, but with his last comedy outings not unconvincingly weaving in police work (The Heat), spying (Spy) and the busting of ghosts (Ghostbusters), he’s managed to play in a few different sandpits along the way. Matters also make more sense considering the Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively-starring A Simple Favour feels more lurid semi-comic noir than stylised, grimy Fincher.

Kendrick summons the same squirmy comic timing we’ve come to expect here as somewhat excruciating small-town “mommy blogger” Stephanie, trying to sustain life as a single mother through being an online video influencer. Suddenly thrown into the orbit of new friend Emily (Lively) who is everything she’s not—confident, wealthy, stylish, unpredictable—Stephanie strives to emulate her and shares selective elements of her deepest personal secrets.

The film's anticipated mystery arrives in the form of Emily’s unexplained disappearance, with Stephanie trying to unravel events while at the same time unsuccessfully battling an internal envy that drives her to pick up the lifestyle her “best friend” has left behind. Kendrick sells this side of her character, covetous and impulsive behind a veneer of sweet politeness, as strongly as the earlier friendship-forming was marked by her obsequious and awkward performance.

Unfortunately, while Stephanie indulges in realising her fantasies by ascending to claim Emily’s vacated home, wardrobe and dreamy author husband (Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding), it doesn’t sit well alongside her Nancy Drew antics. The film hints at latent femme fatale qualities while she also pursues a virtuous amateur detective crusade, and while we’re being spoon-fed seemingly contradictory character traits—hey, people are complex, y’know—the parts don’t fit together all that successfully. And, as Emily’s past comes more to light, it becomes apparent the film already has somewhat of a femme fatale character (and Lively, unfortunately, isn’t as good at it as the film needs her to be).

Stuck somewhere between straight thriller, comic tale and over-the-top schlockfest, A Simple Favour has the wobbles as it enters a third act marked by shocking revelations and narrative twists that don’t feel earned by the film preceding them. Chances of the audience having checked out well before the credits roll are high—Gillian Flynn this ain’t.

FilmInk (Australia)

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...classy in its aesthetic, crisp in its framing and delivery, and confrontational yet seductive in its mood.

Hollywood Reporter

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The movie never sheds its aura of talented people trying to class up cheap material.

Variety (USA)

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The film feels a lot like the Serge Gainsbourg number that Stephanie dances to in the kitchen: jazzy, a little sleazy, and worth a cult following.

Total Film (UK)

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Paul Feig makes a slight gear change for a slick thriller that's best enjoyed with a martini in hand.

Herald Sun (Australia)

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All that remains by the end is a soft-headed, sour-hearted farce where you can sense even the cast and crew wish the whole thing was over already.

Stuff.co.nz (James Croot)

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Thrown [sic] in a so hip it hurts soundtrack infused with vintage pop tunes and the result is a sassy little stylish thriller that's one of the surprise delights of 2018.

Los Angeles Times

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As bright and bracing as an ice-cold gin martini with a lemon twist, and just as satisfying.

NZ Herald (Dominic Corry)

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Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively combine well in this stylish comedy-thriller. It remains captivating enough despite never entirely cohering.

Stuff.co.nz (Graeme Tuckett)

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Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) gives his stars plenty of space to work their magic and gets the acidity levels exactly right.