So much happens in A Simple Favor, it’s difficult to summarize without giving too much away. The simple synopsis: it’s a story (based on a novel) about a vlogger named Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) and her new best friend Emily (Blake Lively). When Emily disappears, Stephanie starts to investigate and uncovers more about who Emily really is. Meanwhile, Stephanie is getting close to Emily’s husband Sean (Crazy Rich Asian’s Henry Golding).
The trailers and posters make A Simple Favor look like s serious mystery or a heart pounding thriller like Gone Girl or Black Swan. It’s neither and that’s a good thing. Director Paul Feig injects his humor into the story to create one of the best dark comedies in years.
The heart of the film is Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. The two of them carry this crazy story with their amazing onscreen chemistry. They bounce jokes off each other like a seasoned improv group one moment, only to have an intense conversation in the blink of an eye. They both give very good performances and that’s the main reason this movie works so well. The scene when Emily and Stephanie trade confessions sums up just how twisted their relationship is and the incredible chemistry Kendrick and Lively have together.
Blake Lively is a force of nature as Emily. Emily is confident and strong in a way that most female characters don’t get to be in film. She puts her foot on the gas and doesn’t let up until the credits role. From her dapper wardrobe to her tough as nails attitude, Lively owns every second she’s onscreen.
What really makes this film work is French pop soundtrack. It’s not the usual musical choice for a film about a stay at home mom looking for her missing friend, yet somehow it works. The soundtrack is uplifting and fun when it needs to be and haunting in other moments. The songs add to the noir feel as Stephanie digs deeper into Emily’s past. This is the best soundtrack/film combination since Scott Pilgrim vs The World.
Newcomer Henry Golding gives a great performance as Emily’s husband. Golding trades in his golden boy image as Nick Young in this year’s hit Crazy Rich Asians, for a shady husband character that doesn’t seem as forthcoming as he should be. Golding has a bright future ahead of him. It’s great to see him on the big screen as a romantic lead, a role Asian men don’t play in American films very often.
Paul Feig and his team crafted a film that centers two strong female leads in roles that are usually played by men. The leads are strong in different ways, and they both drive what happens/doesn’t happen in the film.
A Simple Favor is a lot of fun. It’s the dark comedy I didn’t know I needed. It’s equal parts thriller and dark comedy, and the perfect mix of campy and crazy. Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick’s performances should be enough to make this a must see. If not, the mystery is clever enough to keep audiences engaged for 2 hours. I hope we get to see Kendrick and Lively together on the big screen again very soon.