A Simple Favour

 

star

 


A crime drama that wobbles on its comedic foundations.

 
Simple Favour, A

Anna Kendrick

 

Be it Bridesmaids or one of his other hits, comedy usually has a prominent role in the best-known films of Paul Feig. Consequently, when IMDb described the director's latest piece, A Simple Favour, as a work of 'crime, drama, mystery' it suggested that this time he was attempting something quite different. Not having read the novel on which the film is based, I can't say if the adaptation has changed its tone, but what we have on the screen is a story fatally rooted in a world that is utterly artificial.

 

Both the leading characters are female which could be a selling point. What brings them together is the fact that each of them has a son at the same elementary school, but they are very different people: Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a rather naive young widow while Emily (Blake Lively) cultivates a sophisticated manner, is married to Sean (Henry Golding) and lives in luxury. But one day Emily asks Stephanie as a simple favour to collect her son from school and before long Stephanie is able to declare that Emily has become her best friend.

 

There's a distant echo here of Mistress America (2015) in which Lola Kirke's young student is dazzled by the poise and style of her prospective stepmother played by Greta Gerwig. But there is a key difference in that the figures in Mistress America seemed like real people whereas Stephanie and Emily are introduced in scenes that smack of manufactured comedy. But then the disappearance of Emily and her apparent murder bring us to the crime element and thus into the world of such popular contemporary thrillers as The Girl on the Train. Yet our ability to go along with it is quite undermined by the fact that we have no belief in the characters involved in the first place. Admittedly, my own taste is such that I find it difficult to accept the later stages of so many thrillers that provide unlikely twists and turns and then take the plot well over the top. However, it's a new experience in such works to find unreality dominating even before the story properly gets going.

 

As A Simple Favour develops, we do indeed get all the twists and turns that one might expect but, with many of them being so familiar now, one looks in vain for any sign that this film is designed as a parody to fit in with the comedy of its early scenes. But, no, we really are being asked to accept the preposterous plot at face value regardless of any moments of humour. Only viewers with an extreme readiness not to question the credibility of whatever is on the screen will get anything out of this misconceived movie. As for the acting, Anna Kendrick falls back into the comic mode rather too readily on occasion, but in these adverse circumstances Blake Lively does all that can be done for the role of Emily. For the most part the men are neither here nor there.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Jean Smart, Rupert Friend, Eric Johnson, Kelly McCormick, Bashir Salahuddin, Linda Cardellini, Patti Harrison, Nicole Peters, Sarah Baker, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine.

 

Dir Paul Feig, Pro Paul Feig and Jessie Henderson, Screenplay Jessica Sharzer, from the novel by Darcey Bell, Ph John Schwartzman, Pro Des Jefferson Sage, Ed Brent White, Music Theodore Shapiro, Costumes Renee Ehrlich Kalfus.

 

BRON Studios/Feigco Entertainment-Lionsgate.
117 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 21 September 2018. Cert. 15.