Don’t be fooled by trailers – A Simple Favour is far more than a Gone Girl knock-off. Heavily marketed as coming from ‘the dark side of Paul Feig,’ in practice it feels like Feig has remade a François Ozon film that doesn’t exist. Like Ozon, Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer (working from a novel by Darcey Bell) have a knack for balancing lurid melodrama with a sharp sense of humour, and the resulting film is a frothy bit of fun that only occasionally suffers from tonal whiplash.
The set-up is a familiar one; a single mother and over-enthusiastic vlogger Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) befriends the effortlessly cool Emily (Blake Lively) and takes it upon herself to play Nancy Drew when her new friend mysteriously vanishes. But it soon becomes apparent that there’s more to Emily than meets the eye…
The plot has more twists than one of Emily’s trademark martinis, and they range from shocking to frankly ridiculous. Feig wisely chooses to keep the pace relatively quick and the tone reasonably light, though despite his best efforts the script has almost tied itself in knots by act three.
Luckily, he’s got two great actors to keep us compelled. Blake Lively is clearly having a ball playing the enigmatic Emily (and wearing the most enviable collection of outfits since Cate Blanchett in Ocean’s 8). But the standout is undoubtedly Anna Kendrick. At first, this feels like the same overly peppy heroine Kendrick’s played a thousand times before, but she teases out initially hidden depths to revel a fascinating protagonist.
Your investment in the mystery will depend on your patience – but thanks to a smart script and great performances from its leading ladies, A Simple Favour is a surprisingly old-fashioned thriller that’s never, ever dull. Do yourself a (simple) favour and give it a watch.
CAST: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Linda Cardellini
DIRECTOR: Paul Feig
WRITERS: Jessica Sharzer (screenplay by), Darcey Bell (based upon the novel by)
SYNOPSIS: A SIMPLE FAVOUR centers around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy blogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily’s (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town.