A Simple Favour
Paul Feig has a career full of hits and misses, often within the same movie. He has a high risk, high reward attitude towards scene construction and complete commitment to long jokes hammered home. This means that a film like his Ghostbusters remake can contain moments as charming and career-defining as Kate McKinnon’s dance scene as well as a drawn-out gag about wonton soup no one needed. What always comes through a Feig feature, however, is that commitment and passion, especially for his characters. His latest venture, A Simple Favour, takes this distinctive fixation and applies it to a different and subtler tone of film than we are used to from him, as seductive as it is brash and funny.
If A Simple Favour convinces the audience of anything, it is how much fun it must be to play one of Feig’s female characters. Blake Lively comes alive in her role, completely astounding as the sexy and steely Emily Nelson, an aloof PR guru and mother who goes missing. Her performance is so compelling and watchable that the movie seems to sag in scenes when she is absent, especially because these sequences are carried by Anna Kendrick’s more nuanced and quiet character, Stephanie. Kendrick’s performance is also stellar as a nerdy single mother trying to find her new best friend. It is a role defined by its restraint and reserve, leaving questions and uncertainties as her character develops. The other major character is Emily’s husband Sean, a failed novelist dedicated to trying to keep up with his wife, played by the fashionable Henry Golding. Unlike the women’s, Golding’s acting is bland and doe eyed. Although unlikely to be purposeful, this vacuity actually serves to highlight the tense, fascinating relationship between Lively and Kendrick that propels the film forward.
Another of Feig’s passions that comes through is his love of cinematic history. The whole movie feels like an excuse to try out every trick in the film noir book, including doppelgangers, long scenes with dozens of internal plot twists and martinis served at grave side. Paired with flashes of the director’s slapstick and earnest humour this does occasionally fall into the hammy, but it’s done with such charm and enthusiasm that it is not sickly. Unfortunately, this indulgence does make the pacing of A Simple Favour uneven. It needs to support a lot of single-serve characters and locations, some of which don’t pay off and are strange dead points in the otherwise edgy and flirty plot.
It is undeniable that this film is fun to watch. However, it also does more than that. Like recent TV triumph Big Little Lies, A Simple Favour shows that a screen plot can centre around women and be sharp, feminine and feminist without becoming saccharine, preachy or niche. It stands on its own and is a fantastic example of what smart and thoughtful cinema can look like in the hands of a passionate vision.
A simple Favour is released nationwide on 20th September 2018.
Watch the trailer for A simple Favour here: