It would seem to be a simple favour in that in exchange for making a mega budget summer blockbuster comedy that audiences should flock to see it. Unfortunately for director Paul Feig that’s not what happened to his all female reboot of Ghostbusters in 2016 making only $229m from a $144m budget. ‘Where are the flocking crowds?’ or something similar must have been the query from the studio execs which scuppered any chance of further sequels. So Feig has returned to his better smaller female led comedy films this time with the always great Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect 3) and Blake Lively (The Shallows).
Based on the novel by Darcey Bell it has Kendrick as the appropriately named Stephanie Smothers, a cookery vlogger and single mother, who throws herself 100% into everything including volunteering for everything at her sons school where she meets the mother of her son’s friend the impossibly glamorous Emily Nelson (Blake Lively). Emily is a full on Amazonian supermodel type, bitchily waspish and never dressed for anything other than a catwalk and about as convincing as a child’s mum as a Donald Trump factual tweet. But despite being polar opposites they form an unlikely friendship over Emily’s expertise with concocting martini cocktails. So Stephanie, over-compensating as usual, is taken advantage of by Emily who uses the only too willing mum pick up Emily’s son. All is fine until Lively disappears eventually turning up dead.
It’s here that the film takes a decidedly dark turn but it’s not for long because director Feig’s films are deeply rooted in comedy and A Simple Favour is no different. It’s shame because though Kendrick is a naturally gifted comic actress it would have serve the film well if Feig had committed to the dark subject matter and resisted the temptation to play it light. That’s not to say the story is ever less than engaging but the mystery of what happened to Emily finds the spotlight turning on Stephanie and her friendship and blossoming romance with Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding – Crazy Rich Asians) especially after its revealed that he took out a $4m life assurance policy just before she died.
Playing much like Gone Girl and with hints of Les Diaboliques which Stephanie even refers to but A Simple Favour is not in the same class as either of those films. The contrast in roles and characters is what’s best about the film with a statuesque Lively wearing nothing less than top end designer outfits it must have been galling for Kendrick who seems to be half the height of Lively, being dressed in outfits that wouldn’t look out of place on a rail in George at Asda.
For Feig this is a return to comic form though veering away from what should be far darker film and there’s a cop-out Scooby Doo bit of exposition that’s always a sign of a bit of lazy screenwriting. If nothing else though A Simple Favour continues to show that Feig is the premiere director of female comics but here he’s declined the challenge to show he can do darker subject matter.
Here’s the trailer for A Simple Favour…….