Somewhere between Death Becomes Her and Gone Girl are Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively giving their best resting bitch faces by way of A Simple Favour and doing a damn good job of it too. In what might be Paul Feig’s best film since Bridesmaids, the filmmaker who’s always game for a laugh aims to bring the funny in a thriller which works, once you let yourself in on the joke.
Playing opposite one another in less of a whodunit and more of a how could it, Anna Kendrick is the all-smiles single mother, Stephanie, who’s as warm and charming as the baked goods she brings to school events. But PTA meetings and brownie batches soon find themselves on the bottom of the to-do list when she meets business suit wearing bombshell, Emily Nelson (Blake Lively). Successful, goal-orientated and happy to tear the world apart over a carefully made-Martini, she’s everything Stephanie isn’t, making it all the more difficult to learn the truth about her new BFF when she suddenly goes missing.
Feig’s take on the Darcey Bell book of the same name is massively commendable, though not without its issues. For starters, if the marketing for this had you thinking you’d have another Gone Girl on your hands, you’d be half right. There are occasions where A Simple Favour etches so close to the shadows that it could so easily feel more Fincher than Feig. Certain elements knock you for a loop between the laughs, and you’ll find yourself trying to wrap your head around the situations unfolding alongside the punchlines. Guiding you through the twists, turns and verbal burns hurled back and forth, the film’s leads are bringing brilliant performances, clicking and occasionally clashing with one another as they do, leaving Crazy Rich Asian star, Henry Golding getting caught in the middle. Poor sod.
Stephanie’s gradual corruption by Lively’s siren in a business suit is the easily the films greatest element, and it’s great to see them share the screen before one disappears from view. Emily Nelson is an alluring mystery that Lively handles brilliantly with Kendrick simply there to bask in her shadow. But when the disappearing game begins, Kendrick takes centre stage, acting as our window into a reasonably unsurprising detective story that occasionally shocks but gives the game away a little too soon. Thankfully, this hustle is covered up with plenty of dark humour that Feig handles a lot better than he has done in the past, making A Simple Favour an easy but enjoyable watch.