Alcohol, murder, and sex: “A Simple Favor” was the farthest thing away from simple. The film could almost be broken into two parts: the first forty-five minutes or so, which were good, and the remaining hour and a bit – which felt like an eternity – was pretty bad. Immediately, the film oozed sophistication with the song “Music To Watch Girls By” sung in French in the background of the opening credits, which was reminiscent of the classic Hollywood films.
It introduces Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a vlogger and full-time mother who becomes unlikely ‘friends’ with Emily (Blake Lively), a PR director for a fashion designer, and herself a fashion icon. Stephanie believes her and Emily are best friends merely because they share secrets with each other over strong martinis, but it seems like Emily just uses their ‘friendship’ to get Stephanie to play nanny to her son.
When Emily asks Stephanie to do her ‘a simple favor’ and pick up her son, Nicky, from school, it becomes anything but when Emily disappears. Before the disappearance the film comes across very cosmopolitan; the difference between the two women is evident in the way they dress: Emily is bold and edgy, while Stephanie is prim and proper, and in their attitude to life: Emily is confident, whereas Stephanie is apologetic. The sexual tension between the two is obvious, as Stephanie is awed by ‘the popular girl’ that can’t fully be reached. I’ll be honest, I went to see this film for Blake Lively, she’s stunning, and the outfits she wears in this are amazing! But there was too little of Lively and too much of Anna Kendrick (who I generally like, but she was trying too hard to be kooky).
After the disappearance, Stephanie tries to BECOME Emily, worming her way into Emily’s husband’s life (Henry Golding), who I personally preferred in ’Crazy Rich Asians’. It’s here where the whole story loses the run of itself, twisting itself into knots trying to keep the audience guessing who ‘the bad guy’ is. It was such a bizarre film and went so far beyond the realm of reality that it almost became fantasy, and the constant reference to Stephanie being a saint and the religious motifs was a bit creepy.
I was confused as to whether the film was trying to be a thriller, a comedy, or a complete spoof. It felt like Nancy Drew on steroids! While ’A Simple Favor’ started off with such promise, it eventually became too much and lost all sense. So much so that most of the audience came out of the cinema scratching their heads, wondering what in the hell did we just watch?
By Shauna Fox – Film Writer