Directed by: Paul Feig
Length: 116 minutes
A Simple Favor is a frustrating mess of a movie that in its final two acts squanders the potential established by its first half hour. The film opens with a colorful title sequence that’s a throwback to mystery and action films of the 1960s. It suggests a film that would be a lot more fun than what we get. The plot follows Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy blogger who is trying to sort out the disappearance of her friend Emily (Blake Lively). The first half hour is quite good. It shows how Stephanie and Emily meet, and establishes them as solid comedic duo. The moment Emily vanishes, this film dies. It turns into Gone Girl in high key lighting. The remaining 80 minutes or so are neither funny enough to be considered a parody, nor full of enough fresh intrigue to be a thoughtful mystery or film noir.
The biggest laughs from the audience for the rest of the film resulted from a child using profanity. Most of my laughing during the second act was not from the movie, but the sight of Alex repeatedly struggling to fit her soda into the tiny cup holders in the dark. It was more interesting to watch than anything happening on screen. I was amused by a brief appearance by Linda Cardellini as an artist who rendered a nude portrait of Emily (or at least parts of her), but she is only on screen for a couple minutes. I’ve never thought I would miss Blake Lively’s presence in a film, but with her and Kendrick separated for most of it, the film lacks characters who share chemistry.
Paul Feig has proved himself, with films like Spy, as an adept mixer of genres, but here he does so with about the level of skill that Spielberg brought to 1941. That would merely be disappointing if, unlike Spielberg, Feig wasn’t known a gifted comedic director. This film is a disaster and a cheap rip-off of far better films. The most positive thing I can say is that Kendrick and Lively really give the material all they’ve got and develop nice chemistry together. It would be nice to see them work together again sometime, hopefully with a director who brings them better material.
A Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer score has never let me down in such a dramatic fashion before. I was such a wide eyed optimist walking into the theatre for this film and I left having aged a good twenty years as a result of forced laughter and boredom. Before I tear this movie a new one, let me begin by saying that Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively had great chemistry in this film. I just wish that there had been more of it. The characters were complete opposites, but it was a really intriguing dynamic. Unfortunately, that is where the good things in this film end.
Honestly, this film was just a very cheap and poorly done Gone Girl knock off. At times, it was literally a plot point by plot point call back to the much better done 2014 thriller. Part of the problem is that this film took itself way too seriously. Paul Feig is a comedy director and I wish he had leaned into that a little more. There were moments of comedy, but they were few and far between. And the comedy that was used just seemed cheap most of the time.
At the same time, this film was just trying to do too much. There were subplots that cheapened the overall story. There was a romantic subplot that was completely unnecessary and so many intriguing story lines that were started and never completed. I really went into this film thinking we were going to get a fun thriller. The reality though was that we got a poorly done knock off. I sat through this entire film just waiting for the plot twist that never came. Unfortunately, this film was just an overall waste of great talent.