First things first, A Simple Favour is not really a mystery film, well not a good one at least. As much as the marketing would have you believe, those looking for the next Gone Girl or The Girl on The Train will need to continue their search. The story here is far-fetched, overcooked and unravels in such a haste that it’s hard to treat much of it seriously. Director Paul Feig (best known for his comedy works such as Bridesmaids and Spy), seemingly aware of the story’s inherent ridiculousness, keeps the film light and easily digestible, but the result is a weird tonal hybrid of a comedy-mystery that fails at being either. Think Game Night, but more obnoxious than funny.
Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favour follows Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a widowed, single mum who runs a mommy blog. Her goody two-shoes personality makes her pariah amongst the other parents. One day, on a playdate for their children, she befriends Emily (Blake Lively), a chic, elegant woman whose everything she is not. Before long they become best friends, and when Emily disappears, Stephanie steps out of her shell to solve the mystery.
Anna Kendrick stars in a role perfectly attuned to her goofy charms and Blake Lively convincingly embodies the enigmatic nature of her character in a crucial supporting role. Henry Golding, hot off Crazy Rich Asians, gets the rough end of the deal playing Emily’s husband, a character who, while not entirely likeable, is cruelly used and manipulated by the two female protagonists throughout the film. It’s disheartening to see that the film’s message of female empowerment often comes as a result of emasculating its primary male character. In fact, the film’s regressive approach to bolstering its two strong female leads does the film a great disservice.
The only consistency between all the characters is that none of them are particularly likeable. They each make questionable decisions, are gratingly self-centred and become increasingly obnoxious as the film progresses with its dubious twists. By the end, you’ll be hard pressed to care about any of them. This is no more evident than in the film’s tacked on “where are they now?’ postscript that feels completely unnecessary and ill informed in assuming audiences care enough about the characters to know where they end up.
On the upside, Feig, who is more proficient in making fun films rather than serious ones, keeps the film feeling light and easy-going. He knowingly teases the audience with a stylish soundtrack filled with classy French music, and there are some funny scenes that incite light chuckles rather than any laugh out loud bursts of humour. These meagre positives don’t improve the stillborn narrative but at least they make it a little less painful to digest.
Ultimately, A Simple Favour is a strange blend of mystery and comedy that doesn’t gel into a cohesive whole. As a piece of entertainment, it’s entirely disposable. As a thriller, well, imagine Gone Girl as directed by Paul Feig. Or better yet, don’t.