A Simple Favor (R) ★★★½

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively star in “A Simple Favor” Photo Credit: Lionsgate

Dry Martini’s in the Suburbs

Despite the ambiguous genre of this superb diabolical modern-suburbia film—that has themes of mystery, comedy, murder, romance, secrets, and betrayals—for sure it’s one of the best times I’ve had at the movies—just wish I’d have ordered a martini to enhance the experience.

Director Paul Feig, of “Bridesmaids” fame and Melissa McCarthy’s hit “Spy” seems to have a sixth sense when directing women, as he’s unquestionably catapulted Lively into the leading role realm as a bankable contender and expanded Kendrick’s impressive leading role career by adding another outstanding performance to her resume. Feig knows women— and it shows, his lens has captured their allure, chemistry, and most importantly—their talents.

The stunning no-filter fashion career mom Blake Lively (Emily Nelson), is the exact opposite of the buttoned-up schoolgirl, pleaser, brownie making, stay-at-home vblogger Anna Kendrick (Stephanie Smothers), both moms, polar opposites, are intrigued by each other’s company. Emily makes a mean gin martini, which Stephanie takes a liking to and their secrets begin to unfold like melted ice on a hot summer day. Both give captivating performances; their early scenes together are the film’s high points.

Adapted from Darcey Bell’s 2017 book of the same name, it’s been compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” although clearly standing on its own in, the twists and turns will keep you on shaking your head and rolling your eyes in disbelief. Yes, the word comedic is mixed in alongside mystery as the second half of the film is both funny and entirely unforeseen. Refreshing is a term that comes to mind—I caution you not to read spoilers as this film is best viewed with limited prior knowledge.

The majority of the film occurs in Emily’s expensive modern, floor to ceiling windowed home—and let’s not forget her ‘to die for closet’ filled with beautiful shoes, sequined dresses, and lovely accessories. Stephanie’s modest kitchen is multi-faceted serving as her workspace to videotape her ‘Mom Blog’ and to assist in the film’s transition from one event to another as seen through Stephanie’s eyes. The dynamic of women; Emily, guileful self-centered and cold is the dark mirror opposite of Stephanie—both struggle to hide the secrets of their pasts.

Enter Henry Golding (Sean) a floundering writer, Emily’s husband, and now there’s a triangle as stormy as the one near Bermuda. So many questions, one thing we do know, from the film’s opening is that Emily, after dropping her kindergarten-age son (Ian Ho) off at school asks Stephanie for ‘a simple favor’ to pick her son up and care for him until she’s finished working. In the first plot twist, two-days later, no one has seen or heard from Emily—the police are notified.

Stephanie, vblogs the disappearance asking viewers to help in locating Emily. Her site quickly gains followers as new discoveries unfold. The use of the mom-vblog is perfect for setting the tone for modern day times, and as viewers, we learn Stephanie’s point of view. It works beautifully. Does Emily re-appear, has she been murdered, did she and Sean fake her death, what are the women’s secrets? All of these questions are answered and more in this satisfyingly, entertaining and thirst-quenching film.

Director: Paul Feig
Screenplay: Paul Feig and Jessica Sharzer
Cast: Blake Lively (Emily Nelson), Anna Kendrick (Stephanie Smothers), Henry Golding (Sean Townsend), Andrew Rannells (Darren), and Jean Smart (Margaret McLanden)
Running Time: 2 hours 4 minutes
Studio: Lionsgate

Sarah Knight Adamson© September 14, 2018