Updated: January 17, 2022 9:00:43 am
Filmmaker, writer and comedian Paul Feig is an old hand at making comedies (read Bridesmaids, The Heat, Spy and Ghostbusters). But 2018’s A Simple Favor was a different ball game. Sure, it had its moments of humour, but the plot twist was the calling card for this Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively-starrer. Again, a somewhat unique choice for its leading cast. Afterall, Anna is known for her comedic chops, but Lively, not so much. And this was a dark comedy thriller. As it turned out, both the lead actors did a stand-up job of portraying their parts.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves, first, a little about the story for the uninitiated. Anna’s Stephanie Smothers is a young widowed mother who is energetic, warm and self-deprecating. She is also a vlogger who (SPOILER) has slept with her half-brother. Her child goes to the same school as Emily Nelson’s (Blake Lively). But Emily is rarely present for any school activities which involve parents. However, one day, Stephanie and Emily’s paths cross, and the audience gets to see that Emily is the polar opposite of Stephanie. She is confident, self-assured, working woman who is always dressed in stylish power suits. She is also stunning, so is her husband and their very spacious house. Soon, they befriend each other and start spending time together, spilling secrets, which is when things go south, as they usually do in such scenarios. The rest of the narrative moves forward from there.
Usually, when one sees a thriller, you cannot help but keep guessing at every pivotal point who could be at fault here, or the mastermind? I did that too while watching the film, and Feig’s direction and Jessica Sharzer’s sharp screenplay (based on the book of the same name by Darcey Bell) kept me guessing till the end. Well, nearly. The turns and bends the story takes are quick, sometimes uncomfortable, but almost always intelligent. The characters’ desperation, their human frailties were also highlighted. No one is the heroine here, really (okay maybe Kendrick’s Stephanie is slightly). And the best part about the story was that the leads had equal footing in it. They really took on different shades of personality throughout the film which made you doubt your convictions about who was the worse person, because bad they both were.
Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively were the shining lights of A Simple Favour. Without their honest, entertaining portrayals of these deliciously flawed women, the ride would not have been nearly as satisfying as it was. Lively was a revelation, as far as I’m concerned. Sure, she is a beautiful woman who has charisma and looks great on screen. But can she pull off a meaty role? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Watch it to believe it.
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The movie also throws spotlight on the themes of parenting, and how, much like anything in life, it is a continuous learning process. We get the huge influence of social media as well, what with Kendrick’s Stephanie vlogging everything about the mystery as she goes along the dark, unpredictable road. Simply put, A Simple Favor packs in a lot of things within its two-hour run, giving plenty of room to its actors to show off their skills. So if it is an engaging, dark thriller that you are looking for, minus all the sad bits, then A Simple Favour should be your pick of the weekend.
A Simple Favor is available to stream on Netflix.
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