On the surface, you’d be forgiven for thinking that A Simple Favour is nothing more than a Gone Girl knock-off.
Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, the movie centres on the sudden disappearance of a woman – here, Blake Lively’s enigmatic Emily Nelson – and the investigation to find out what happened, led by Anna Kendrick’s vlogger Stephanie Smothers, which inevitably sees the spotlight fall on Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding).
But while the set-up is familiar and the two movies are both based on books, that’s about where the similarities between Gone Girl and A Simple Favour end – thankfully so.
Where Gone Girl was cynical and often nasty, A Simple Favour is its playful cousin, as Ghostbusters and Bridesmaids director Paul Feig crafts a darkly funny and breezy romp that revels in its increasingly twisted reveals.
It helps that the movie wastes little time in getting going. We open on Stephanie giving her latest vlog, updating her followers on the fact that Emily has been missing for five days since she asked her for “a simple favour” to pick up her son from school. For any new followers (and Emily’s disappearance does have its benefits for Stephanie’s vlog), she handily recaps the events leading up to it.
On the surface, Stephanie and Emily couldn’t be any further apart. Stephanie is a do-gooder stay-at-home mum who gets involved in everything, while Emily has a high-powered fashion job, lives life to the full and has a painted nude of herself in her living room. However, as the two bond over martinis, it becomes apparent that the two might not be as different as you think.
To go into more detail would be to spoil the twists that come thick and fast, both about Emily’s disappearance and the characters backstories. If there’s a downside to the movie, it’s that the central mystery isn’t always as clever as the script thinks it is, with some easily guessable reveals that are handled like they’re a big surprise. However, there are enough times where you’re not sure what will come next, especially as the movie heads into its final third.
Whether you work it all out early or not, A Simple Favour‘s biggest strength lies in its two winning lead performances from Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. They spark off each other instantly and know exactly the tone that Feig is going for – a quirky and heightened thriller, shot through with pitch-black humour. Lively especially seems to relish the chance to let loose with the profanities, with Kendrick playing more of the ‘straight’ role.
Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Golding suffers a fairly bland husband role, especially in the face of more engaging support roles from the likes of Andrew Rannells as Darren, one of the bitchy parents at school, and Homeland‘s Rupert Friend as Emily’s boss Dennis Nylon. The supporting cast is mainly there to provide red herrings to the central mystery, but at least most of them get to have fun while doing it.
When you add in a super cool Europop soundtrack (featuring Brigitte Bardot, Jacques Dutronc and more) that won’t leave your head, the result is a delicious mix of mystery, dark thrills and sharp wit that makes A Simple Favour an irresistible offer.
Director: Paul Feig; Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Jean Smart, Linda Cardellini, Rupert Friend; Running time: 117 minutes; Certificate: 15
A Simple Favour is out now. Book tickets here.
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