Director Paul Feig of “Bridesmaids” fame has taken a lot of risks to make Darcey Bell’s hit novel “A Simple Favor” into a dark comedy. I’m not talking comedy in the form of laugh-out-loud funny, but comedy in its honest views. His last directing job of “Ghostbusters” failed to spark a new franchise, based on the box office results, but in a small budget, he offers a lot to the characters and story, with some help from screenplay writer Jessica Sharzer, of course.
Anna Kendrick gives her best performance in years as Stephanie Smothers, a mommy blogger and single mom, who meets the mysterious Emily (Blake Lively) when taking her little boy Miles (Joshua Satine) home from school. Emily’s son Nicky (Ian Ho) asks if they can have a play date, and they reluctantly agree. Emily just needs a drink. After their fun afternoon, Stephanie declares Emily her best friend. That is until one day, when Emily asks her “a simple favor”-to take Nicky home from school-and disappears for days.
Emily has a writer husband named Sean (Henry Golding, recently from “Crazy Rich Asians”), who finds out about her disappearance, after solving a family problem in the U.K. When she is found dead, Sean and Stephanie start to get closer. But Stephanie learns that there’s more than meets the eye to everything.
Sure, some elements in the film are predictable (no spoiler alerts), but “A Simple Favor” is fun from beginning to end. When we see the two girls drink and share secrets with each other; when Kendrick splices seriousness with her perky humor; and when we, the audience, see the mystery unfold, the movie proves itself to be intelligent.
Among the cast, Lively is also charming when she plays this busy mom who may not be what she seems; and Golding adds another charismatic role, twice in a row, as a matter of fact. So far, he’s just amazing. And you also get some fresh work from Rupert Friend as Emily’s sinister boss; Bashir Salahudden as the main detective; and Linda Cardellini as an Emily-obsessed painter.
I love how Feig is able to expand his horizons, by representing the book’s dark narrative and tone; and he is a brave filmmaker for doing so. And I especially love the French songs the movie chooses to have for its scenes. They make things seem so alluring, old-fashioned, and stylish. Even the credits are fun to gaze at.
Fans of the book will eat this movie up with a nice glass of wine and some fine cheese.