✰✰✰½ (out of five)
Synopsis: "A Simple Favor," a stylish post-modern film noir directed by Paul Feig, centers around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy blogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily's (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town. Stephanie is joined by Emily's husband Sean (Henry Golding) in this thriller filled with twists and betrayals, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge.
Review: "A Simple Favor" has a wry sense humor among the murder mystery parts of it's ever-intertwining loops of shocking reveals. It has more twists than a bag of Rold Gold pretzels, and equally as salty, while still leaving you unfilled and with an appetite for more.
The premise is simple enough: widowed homemaker/mother Stephanie (Kendrick) meets high-end socialite babe/mama Emily (Lively) in the pickup lane at their respective sons' grade school. The opposites attract one another to their new BFF's lives--Stephanie wants to break the monotony of being a full-time mom/vlogger with an afternoon cocktail, while Emily is intrigued by the dirty secrets behind the cozy suburban mother demeanor. Emily asks an elementary obligement of Stephanie. Then, Emily goes missing.
Feig is known, theatrically, for his broad comedies--"Bridesmaids," "The Heat," and "Spy," to name a few. But for those of us who know his humble days starting out on NBC's beloved "Freaks and Geeks," we have know him to be able to blend the dramatic with the comedic. And this is what he attempts with "Favor," to 50/50 success.
The started to lose me in the middle, especially with the predictive nature of the shocking reveals. But then it got even more twisty, the film peeling off a new layer just when you thought it was done. Given the success of "Gone Girl," this film tries to take that film's slow burn onion peeling methods. The problem is, "Gone Girl" kept the plot and reveals simple, letting plot and surprises to not only be intertwined but indicative and as a result of one another. Feig wants to weave a basket of twists and turns just cause the genre calls for it.
That is not to say the film is bad. Kendrick is charming and relatable. Golding (also in the indie hit "Crazy Rich Asians") fits the foreign, charmed working husband mold well. But it is Lively who gets to show an underlying evil in her performance, a hidden devious delivery that sneaks you into her charming ways and web of deceit as easily as the characters, constantly asking "What part is real?"
"A Simple Favor" struggles in uncovering the reality of the plot, but Feig has only dove into the deep end of a new genre and expand his horizons. The potential for growth could start with simply phoning a friend accustomed to the territory instead of going missing alone.