A Simple Favor is a noir-tinged black comedy from Paul Feig, and his first film as a director since that much-maligned Ghostbusters 2016 reboot. It’s clear that Feig wanted to do something darker after the comedies he has directed, and it was also smaller in budget. Darcey Bell wrote the novel that A Simple Favor is based on, and the script was adapted by Jessica Sharzer, who is primarily known for her television work.
The plot has a striking resemblance to Gone Girl, and it’s clear that was a selling point when the pitch was made: I can just imagine “It’s like Gone Girl but it’s really funny too.” Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a windowed single mother who runs a vlog, and her kid goes to the same school as Emily Nelson’s child. Emily (Blake Lively) is a well to-do PR manger for a high-end fashion company. The two moms become fast friends, but from the get-go you have the feeling that Emily has ulterior motives regarding their friendship, especially when she just mysteriously disappears. Stephanie heads the search for her missing “friend.”
The real draw here is the interplay between Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick, and it’s bitchy and twisted when it needs to be. Lively’s ice-cool femme fatale completely dominates over Kendrick’s suburban mom. There is always something so overly jolly about Kendrick’s personality that it gets on my nerves, even if she is trying to bring a bit of edge to her role. Rupert Friend appears in an extended cameo as Emily’s ridiculously stuck-up employer. He is quickly becoming one of the more interesting actors out there.
It has more twists then a M. Night Shyamalan film, plus enough cocktail-hour cool to just about not outstay its welcome. It’s probably a bit too light-weight for my taste, but you could certainly spend a worse two hours of your time. The film was also elegantly shot by John Schwartzman, and features a solid, chic production design.
The special features include there audio commentaries with the cast and crew, six featurettes, a gag reel, deleted scenes and a “flash mob alternate ending.”