Lonely housewife Stephanie Meyers (Anna Kendrick) is ensnared by the striking charms of fellow mother Emily Nelson (Blake Lively). But when Emily disappears, Stephanie must unearth the truth, discovering that she never really knew her mysterious friend.
Weaving a genuinely intriguing mystery is a difficult cinematic feat. Procedural investigations can feel like slogs from one exposition dump to the next. To keep the audience riveted to every twist and revelation is difficult, and far trickier is to maintain the audience’s interest in the characters and their world after the final secret has been unveiled.
Not only does Paul Feig succeed in directing a film that is tense and genuinely riveting from beginning to end, but Jessica Sharzer’s script is hilarious and garners genuine affection for its plucky hero and scheming femme fatal (the finest since Amy Dunne). It’s difficult to have a quirky sense of humour and genuine stakes, but the balance is perfect here.
Performances are key of course and Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively have never been better. Kendrick plays Stephanie Meyer with her usual upbeat awkwardness, but there’s an edge to her as well. Her finest moments are when she’s playing Stephanie as the quirky, crafts-obsessed mom caught up in a Chandler-esque detective story. Kendrick has fabulous timing and comedic physicality. Blake Lively is perfectly natural as the intimidating seductress. She’s instantly terrifying and charismatic. Lively and Kendrick have effortless chemistry.
The biggest success of the film is in managing it’s darkly comedic tone. Moving from The film has clearly told you to take proceedings with a pinch of salt before the truly absurd plot contrivances unfold. Consequently the film never loses you. It’s all a morbid joke that you’re in on as well. There’s also a playful yet powerful eroticism throughout.
A Simple Favour is a very funny dark comedy, and a fabulously labyrinthine thriller. Feig and Sharzer succeed in capturing the spirit of Hitchcock and Clouzot whilst also providing authentic comedy, making this film a very entertaining experience.