Film review: ‘A SIMPLE FAVOUR’ by Nick Gardener from ‘Built For Speed’

A Simple Favour from Bridesmaids director Paul Feig is an intriguing, mildly intoxicating and mostly successful attempt to transplant a classic film noir scenario to contemporary sunlit suburbia.

Built around modern female anxieties, the film stars Anna Kendrick as nerdy, buttoned-down Stepford wife-like widower Stephanie. She tries to present herself as the ultimate in committed and resourceful mothers through her weekly home help vlog and obsessive school volunteering. When she accepts an invitation for an afternoon drink with another mum Emily (Blake Lively) she finds herself in a very different world. Emily is a foul-mouthed, sexually provocative, martini-swilling anti-mum who first appears striding from her luxury car dressed to the nines like a classic 40’s femme fatale. After luring Stephanie into her world and almost turning her into an unpaid nanny, Emily mysteriously disappears.   Smelling a rat, Stephanie tries to unearth the mystery behind her sultry yet creepy new friend.

A Simple Favour performs an at times uneasy balancing act as it waivers between crime drama and quirky suburban satire. Consequently, it doesn’t always hit as hard as a mystery, drama or comedy as we might like. The slightly mundane setting, while appropriate to a film about someone from a beige domestic world, deprives the film of the feverish atmosphere it needed; in the similarly-themed Gone Girl, director David Fincher successfully created that mood. The plot also becomes a little convoluted requiring a lot of exposition which at times disrupts its momentum.

Where the film succeeds is in its casting. Kendrick is perfect as the perky, desperate-to-please but deceptively cunning mum while Lively, channelling not only 40’s femme fatales but also Sharon Stone from Basic Instinct, delivers possibly her best performance to date as Emily. Henry Golding, who recently starred in the hit Crazy Rich Asians brings an effective mix of sophistication and sneakiness to the role of Emily’s failed writer husband Sean. Freaks and Geeks alumnus Linda Cardellini also makes a welcome appearance playing massively against type as a snarky, tattooed artist.

Feig doesn’t always seem sure which direction to take this film but there’s plenty to enjoy along the way.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Mystery.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Paul Feig.

Release date: 20th Sep 2018.

Running time: 119 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast.


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