From the depths of Paul Feig’s comedy-driven classics arrives an eccentric cupcake queen and roguish rebel, tied up within a story of friendship, lust and fatality. While A Simple Favour doesn’t disappoint in its inclusion of intriguing characters and numerous plot twists, it falls short of evoking a deeper emotional investment to its storyline that is well deserving of complete attention.
Set in a small American town where gossip and rumours spread like a wildfire, A Simple Favour follows the disappearance of Stephanie’s (Anna Kendrick) newfound ‘best’ friend, Emily (Blake Lively), an enigmatic and mysterious woman. Endeavouring to uncover the past of her cocktail counterpart, Stephanie delves herself into a world unknown to her own, causing lies, unseen love and glamourous clothes to now dominate her life. Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favour explores the dangers of temptation and the secrets that exist within familial relationships whilst highlighting the fine line that exists between truth and falsity. Although the film can be considered a light-hearted adaptation of Gone Girl (2014) or Girl on the Train (2016), it offers no simplicity in regard to its dark and dramatic themes scattered throughout.
After first seeing the film, the one aspect that stood out in prominence and effectiveness was the character representation. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively both excelled as jarring yet fascinating characters – there was always an urge to learn more about each of them – and their on-screen relationship was continually enchanting. Accompanied with the face of Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians), we were able to observe the suspicious suburban world that encompassed these three individuals, something that seemed so familiar yet so distant – “like a beautiful ghost” as Golding’s character of Sean says to describe his wife, Emily. Ultimately, there were no favours which had to be made in appreciating the characters for what they were –simple yet intricate, ordinary but obscure. Allison Jones, the Casting Director for the film, is to be commended for her
efforts for the film.
To say this film incorporated surprises would be an understatement. Rather, it travelled along a road of plot twists, story shifts and relationship switches that causes for the ‘surprise’ to almost become the underlying genre of the film. And although tedious at times, the continual arrival of surprises helped for the film progress in a rhythmic and exciting manner. While the film had to find accord with the novel of origin, the twists and turns were relayed effectively to the screen, enhanced through Theodore Shapiro’s French-inspired soundtrack as well as Brent White’s sharp shot succession editing. In addition, the subtle undertones of comedy added to various of the surprises were also effective, which paralleled with Feig’s previous cinematic works. To include all the necessary content, Feig made the logical decision to have the run-time at just
under 2-hours, this finding similarity in other films of the same genre.
So, while the film did prove to evoke various emotions from audience members (appreciation/ surprise), a significantly deeper emotional engagement within the film on the flip-side was regrettably unachieved. Maybe it was due to lack of voice from surrounding characters to provide further insight into the leading individuals? Maybe it was due to the limited time spent on the backstories of both female leads? Or, maybe, it was simply due to an ending that was never fully explained. In any case, while the film managed to include an array of encapsulating material, it also unfortunately left a lot out. And as a consequence, lost a major fragment of our emotional investment. This was a real shame for a film that had started so strongly, something that had firmly planted it roots but became lost in a whirlwind of unanswered questions and abandoned
subplots. Let’s just hope a sequel doesn’t get made to address this – that would not befavourable.
As a movie that tries something new with combining mystery with comedy, A Simple Favour ticks a lot of boxes. It is witty, stimulating and intensively elusive. Yet for a film to make its break within the cinematic world, it needs to confidently invest in its audience members. Ignoring a deeper emotional engagement for a film is like ignoring the zucchini in Stephanie’s zucchini chocolate-chip cookies – what is the point? Despite this, the film will definitely become a classic to continually watch and something that never gets old. And why? It’s simple, we just love our suburban mystery too much.