What do you get when the director of “Spy” and “Bridesmaids” finds inspiration in a darker genre of film? One gets “A Simple Favor,” the campy “Gone Girl” we didn’t know we needed.
Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, the mommy vlogger and classroom overachiever raising her son alone after being widowed when her husband dies in a car accident. Stephanie’s life takes a turn when she meets Emily(Blake Lively) the polished and daring working mom who enters her life in the kind of slow-motion scene that serves to ensnare audiences, and Stephanie, in awe of this powerhouse. The two become friends, but it isn’t until Emily disappears, leaving Stephanie in the middle of a mystery she never knew she was living and facing an adversary wearing a friendly face with the wits of a psychopath.
“A Simple Favor” continues the trend of Blake Lively-starring vehicles that only keep making a case for why she deserves more attention than she receives. Emily only feels a few shades removed from Lively’s character Serena Van der Woodsen in the CW’s “Gossip Girl” had we seen that character grow further into adulthood. Her interplay with Hollywoods favorite best friend Anna Kendrick keeps things moving along at a fast clip when they are on screen together.
What sets this film apart from some of its predecessors is the simple fact that this film isn’t trying to be anything more than advertised: a darkly comedic thriller. Where any film now has the potential to be dissected for any small piece of social commentary, here we are treated to a bit of a throwback art in that the film is just here to be a good time. Aside from a running bit about how women apologize far too much(preach!), Paul Feig took a note from another era in cinema and just committed to having a bit of tawdry fun.
And what a good time it is. Centering around Emily, the film takes audiences from awe to shock and bewilderment, and finally, to a point where we are left reeling, the puzzle around her character never ends. It is a testament to how tightly crafted this film is that there is no wasted space, and the roller coaster of the third act is jaw-dropping for its twists and turns. The audience is never left with a feeling of empty space, but rather wishing for a breather from the madness on screen and the next glimpse of the enviable wardrobe worn by Lively.
In a year full of sequels, blockbusters, and think pieces, ” A Simple Favor” is a juicy flick perfect for any night out. Audiences of all sort will find themselves holding their breath for the next development, and that is the kind of across the board appeal that has been missing from multiplexes of late. Here we have an example of what audiences crave from their movie trip: entertainment.