A Simple Favour starts as a sleek, twisty thriller before revealing an increasingly dark heart – a tricky balancing act that fizzles in and out.
Director Paul Feig is probably best known for his string of Melissa McCarthy comedies including Bridesmaids (2011), The Heat (2013), Spy (2015), and Ghostbusters (2016) so he might not be the natural choice for a Les Diaboliques meets Arlington Road thriller.
But Feig doesn’t stray far from his comedic comfort zone with A Simple Favour – a story that walks the tightrope between Gone Girl style deception and Throw Momma From The Train jet black humour. As such it’s not always obvious where we do, or are supposed, to stand in our attempt to follow the story of a small town vlogger (Anna Kendrick) who tries to solve the disappearance of her mysteriously cold best friend and fashionista (Blake Lively).
Pitch Perfect star Kendrick makes for a chirpy and accessible lead that is the perfect counterbalance for Lively’s chilled femme fatale influenced performance but director Feig is too indulgent with the amount of cotton he reserves for his spider’s web narrative. A Simple Favour is anything but – an overly complex ask of its audience that offers little emotional warmth to latch on to.
It’s unfortunate that Feig doesn’t afford more control over his narrative as the likes of Hitchcock, Argento and De Palma made their careers navigating similar high wire tone acts and ensuring those wires were as taut as and strong as a piano’s lower register strings.
What does keep the film afloat is the offbeat humour that punctuates the mystery with refreshing zing – something which the cast relishes the chance to play around with. Maybe that’s the issue – it feels a bit too much like playing around. It’s the most snappily dressed dress rehearsal I’ve seen in a while.
Like George Clooney’s misfiring Suburbicon, A Simple Favour is ultimately an intriguing film about identity and control that comes just shy of anchoring down on either amid the turbulence of tone. If you want to see where the breeze takes you, A Simple Favour is just fine.
The DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD Blu-ray are packed full of special features, including 3 Audio Commentaries, Featurettes, Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes and a Flash Mob Alternative Ending:
• Suburban Noir (Blu-ray, 4K UHD Blu-ray & Digital Download exclusive)
• Dapper Director Diaries with Paul Feig (Blu-ray, 4K UHD Blu-ray & Digital Download exclusive)
• Audio Commentary with Director Paul Feig
• Audio Commentary with Director Paul Feig, Actors Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Jean Smart and Bashir Salahuddin
• Audio Commentary with Director Paul Feig, Writer Jessica Sharzer, Producer Jessie Henderson, Cinematographer Jonathan Schwartzman and Costume Designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus
• Gravestone Martinis; Love Triangle; Flash Mob Making Of; Dennis Nylon; A Simple Playdate
• Flash Mob with Intro by Paul Feig; Gag Reel; Deleted Scenes
• 2 Intros by Paul Feig – Introducing the Deleted Scenes & Special Features