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American films

A Simple Favor film review: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively in oddly enjoyable noir comedy

Director Paul Feig explores some dark psychological territory, with lots of laughs, but the fact the proactive leading roles are played by women is what sets it apart from others in this genre

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 4:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 October, 2018, 5:16pm

4/5 stars

Most modern films noir enjoy referencing movies from the past, but the offbeat A Simple Favor works because it uses hardly any of the familiar genre tropes. It’s deliciously different and very funny, too. The bouncy characters and speedy plot seem custom-made for the big screen, yet the story is based on a novel by Darcey Bell.

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A weirdly effective cross between The Girl on the Train , the genre classic Black Widow (1987), and any number of quick-fire Saturday Night Live-inspired comedies, A Simple Favor sets its own path, pace and style and sticks to it all the way.

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a talkative suburban single parent who strikes up a friendship with the seductive Emily (Blake Lively). When Emily disappears, Stephanie helps her clueless husband, Sean (Henry Golding from Crazy Rich Asians ), to search for her. As Stephanie remains missing, affection grows between the two. But then strange events start to occur, and they seem to be connected to Emily’s past.

Although the mix of comedy and detection falters in the final sections, when there’s a scrum of tricky plot reversals, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) manages to keep the true nature of the crime well hidden. When all is finally revealed it does add up, albeit in a somewhat scattershot way.

The beauty of A Simple Favor is that it has women playing the proactive leading roles that men usually play in such films, without ever drawing attention to that fact. The storyline and situations are carefully chosen so that they seem perfectly natural for a suburban mum – it’s not a case of women trying to show they can outshoot the boys, as in the recent The Spy Who Dumped Me .

The first part, which shows Stephanie becoming friends with Emily, is very good indeed, and features an unusual mixture of malice and laughs. Indeed, although the film never misses the chance for a joke, it’s not all laughter – like any good film noir, A Simple Favor explores some deep and dark psychological territory.

A Simple Favor opens on October 4

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