Have you ever wondered what a movie would look like if you coupled a Gone Girl-esque plot with a Disney Channel level of production value? Well if you have, then the final product would be A Simple Favor.
The trailer for this movie made it seem like it would be something similar to Gone Girl, but instead, it turned out to be something slightly better than a Hallmark movie. Right off the bat, it seems like the movie is trying to be a comedy. We see Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) at a school gathering for her son. She is the quirky and awkward single mom that the other parents talk about. Then she meets Emily (Blake Lively) and is introduced to a personality type that has a stark difference to hers. Simply because of Stephanie’s personality and dynamics with the other characters, it would seem like the movie would play well as a comedy. But it tries to be a serious mystery thriller. The juxtaposition of these two tones does not work at all.
From the start, the film is very brightly lit and it doesn’t seem like much attention was paid to the visual aesthetic of the storytelling. Many movies work well when the visuals are incorporated to the storytelling. Because, after all, film is a visual medium. But A Simple Favor seems to think that its story is good enough to keep the viewer engaged. But it isn’t even close.
Everything about this movie just seemed slightly off. From the acting, to the music, to the writing, to the color palette, nothing seemed to work the way it was intended to. In fact, I can’t really tell what the intention really was. The first half hour puts a sour taste in your mouth right from the start. It is attempting to make some sort of commentary on communication and secret keeping, but poorly written characters detract from that.
Though, once the second act starts and Emily disappears, the content of the plot begins to get more consistent with the required tone. We start to see some legitimate characterization in Stephanie and the plot makes sense and is believable.
But it isn’t enough to salvage the movie.
A Simple Favor seems to be trying hard and not trying at all at the same time. It is trying hard when it is a legitimately compelling mystery/thriller. But it is being lazy when it is using the female body as the key to keeping the viewer’s attention.
I think there is a good movie in here somewhere. But director Paul Feig, along with Kendrick and Lively, pushed all the wrong buttons to get the good movie to come out. So if you do these people a simple favor by seeing this movie, do not expect much.