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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Simple Favor, A
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by Jay Seaver

"Becomes too crazy, too late."
3 stars

It's not so much that "A Simple Favor" goes from generic to nuts in the blink of an eye that I don't like, but the fact that it takes so damn long to actually do so. The set-up takes forever, and then when things start to get weird, it's such a hard turn that there's no room for the characters to even hint at being anything other than maniacs. It never gets to feel exhilaratingly untethered.

That's especially true at the start, when the relentlessly dedicated single mom Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) meets Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), the mother of her son's new best friend. Married to Sean Townsend (Henry Golding), who wrote one well-regarded book ten years ago, Emily doesn't suffer fools, and is generally salty where Stephanie is sweet, and has a house and lifestyle that is getting harder to support even with her job working for a fashion designer in the city. One day she asks Stephanie to pick up her son after school, as Sean is overseas looking after his mother, and doesn't come home. It soon becomes clear that, neither Stephanie nor Sean really knows much about the missing woman.

That's a pretty standard start to a thriller, the sort of material that filmmakers try to just find a way through, and you can see director Paul Feig and screenwriter Jessica Sharzer doing that with a minor opening flash-forward, some jokes, and a jarring but more-or-less unimportant revelation. It's not quite filler, but when it's not bland, it's self-mocking, which doesn't exactly give the audience a lot to hold on to when things start to go off the rails.

And things do go impressively berserk about midway through the movie, in nearly every way possible. Which, I guess, is fine if one feels that the whole point of a thriller is to keep the audience guessing without seeming completely random, but that's not entirely satisfying. Beyond having a rooting interest, it's nice for there to be some sort of truth, ugly or ironic or surprising, underneath all the suburban skulduggery, but A Simple Favor just has the details of plans when you look under the surface, no hints at what any of the characters really want or have denied themselves or felt constrained by. There's just the double-crosses, not any reasons why we in the audience should feel fooled or betrayed.

There's some good gags, though, and plenty of actual laughs, in large part from the supporting characters who can stand off to the side and snark at times. Andrew Rannells, Kelly McCormack, and Aparna Nancherla serve as an often-hilarious Greek Chorus mocking Stephanie's aggressive perkiness, for instance, and Ian Ho is refreshingly abrasive as Sean's and Emily's trying son. And there are times when you can see what could have been with Anna Kendrick's amateur sleuth/potential patsy, if there were time for her to actually become aware of herself recognizing her potential as opposed to just suddenly becoming ten times more aggressive.

Stephanie would be a great role for Kendrick if the movie breathed and got on with it at the right times, but that never quite happens; it's like every transitional scene she had was cut out. Blake Lively fits her part better, but it's simpler and has her playing kind of nutty from the start (although she's good enough that when she gets the opportunity to do a bit more, it doesn't immediately register as such). Henry Golding is fine as the guy between them; as in Crazy Rich Asians, he's charming enough to make Sean worth fighting over, but he also never oversteps his bounds to try and steal a scene from the ladies.

Feig usually directs comedies, and "A Simple Favor" has enough funny moments and gaudy pleasures (Emily's wardrobe being at the top of the list) that, when it starts to reveal itself as a messy thriller, you can cheat and call it a spoof or add hyphen-comedy to the genre to explain why you like it anyway. It's okay from that perspective, but it could have been a heck of a lot better if the filmmakers spent some more time on why people were doing anything.

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originally posted: 10/04/18 09:59:24
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User Comments

2/28/19 Langano Decent flick. 3 stars
9/21/18 Bob Dog Kendrick & Lively make a delicious cocktail of a comedy mystery movie. 4 stars
9/14/18 Louise This film should be re-titled: "A simple pile of unwatchable garbage". 1 stars
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  14-Sep-2018 (R)
  DVD: 18-Dec-2018


  DVD: 18-Dec-2018

Directed by
  Paul Feig

Written by
  Jessica Sharzer

  Anna Kendrick
  Blake Lively
  Linda Cardellini
  Rupert Friend
  Jean Smart
  Eric Johnson

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