Watson Reviews: A Simple Favor (Spoiler Free)

There used to be more films like this before they shifted the genre to Netflix series: the suburban peril. Someone living an ideal life in comfort and safety, when it hits the fan. In the previews, this looked like a stinker to be seen on itunes….if at all. But when the film started getting good buzz, I found myself seeing it before more heralded films like Predator…

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

Stephanie, a type-A, always on suburban widow makes friends with Emily, a workaholic, foul mouthed mother of one of her son’s classmates.  As they develop their odd friendship, Stephanie realizes how bizarre and private her new best friend is.

When Emily disappears under mysterious circumstances, Stephanie steps in to help Emily’s husband and son cope; while trying to solve the mystery of Emily’s disappearance and her strange past.

WHAT WORKED:

  • This movie is more of a comedy than a thriller. Look…it is a great thriller.  Don’t get me wrong.  But the previews lead you to beleive that is all this is but that is not the case.  Feig leverages his comedy roots and gives Anna Kendrick (Up In the Air) some material to chew on.  Kendrick is so natural in the comedic setting that this weird cross between Basic Instinct, Heathers, and Wedding Crashers gives her a lot to work with.
  • Kendrick;s co-star stole the film. While not really driving the comedic aspects, Blake Lively (Green Lantern) owns this movie with her wicked and eerie performance.  I have never really enjoyed her work.  You’ll notice that the film in her parenthetical is Green Lantern.  I typically thought that performance was indicative of her talent.  The only other things I liked Lively in were The Shallows and Ryan Reynold’s Instagram photos.  But here she absolutely gives an amazing performance.  In a little more of an impressive film, she might have earned an Oscar nod.
  • We get to see a rising star soon after his big hit. In my review of Crazy Rich Asians, I noted that I wanted to see more of Henry Golding (pay attention if you want to know what else he has been in lately…).  Well, here we get him.  Soon after I first saw him in something substantial.  And he was solid.  Here’s to hoping we may see him again.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

  • Kendrick is a little too over the top at times. While this movie does blend comedy and serious drama very well, there are times where I think Anna (and Feig) went with the funny in moments that should have been serious.  They were rare, but there were a few times it muted the intensity.
  • The script got a tad wonky in the third act. Related to the tone, I feel like the script could have been tighter with the story in the third act.  A minor nit, but I think in the effort to be a really twisty thriller, they took one or two turns that weren’t really necessary.
  • This is not a movie for everyone. The comedy to thriller and back again style might not for every one.  I like thrillers and I love black comedy, but this film is nether AND both somehow.  It works for me, but I could see some audience members scratching their heads.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Ok…maybe I got a little excited above with that Oscar talk, but Lively was amazing.  Kendrick brought the funny.  Golding has such great presence. Feig brought us a fresh and amusing take on the white people in danger genre; without coming across as parody.

I really liked this movie and was surprised buy how much. In a year of film that has largely disappointed me, this was a very pleasant off-season surprise.

Overall, I give A Simple Favor a score of 8.5Oopsey Jars out of 10.

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