Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a widowed, single mother who works as a vlogger in Connecticut. Her best friend, Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), seems to have it all — a successful career, a loving family, and a glamorous lifestyle. When Emily mysteriously disappears one day, Stephanie launches her own investigation by digging into her friend’s past — and finding a few surprises along the way.
I know it’s only been out for a little over two years now, but Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor still holds up incredibly well and it just may be my favorite film he’s directed thus far. Primarily known for his comedies Bridesmaids and The Heat, Feig is definitely one of the funniest directors working today, and you can definitely kick back and laugh at plenty of the jokes in A Simple Favor, but it’s so much more than just a comedy.
It’s a masterful blend of suspense, drama, and comedy all mixed into one incredible package that never lets up from the moment it starts to the moment it ends. Jessica Sharzer’s screenplay is remarkably snappy and fast-moving, and it also allows room for impressive character development.
Emily and Stephanie are two characters that feel so real and so plausible. Emily is a tough and smart girl that won’t let anybody stand in her way. In a scene early on in the film, Stephanie is taking photographs while spending the day with Emily, and just for fun, Stephanie decides to take a picture of Emily. However, the response she gets is definitely not the one that she was expecting.
Emily gets quite annoyed and irritated by this and demands her to erase the picture from her camera immediately, to which Stephanie complies. But at the end of the day, Stephanie and Emily are great friends and they get along well with one another for the most part. They are able to joke around about a lot of things, and although they are certainly two very different people, they find similarities that bring them together.
But what starts out as a relatively simplistic comedy-drama quickly turns into one of the most thrilling movies of the past few years. A gigantic mystery begins in the second act that I cannot go into details about since it would give away major plot points, but rest assured that the mystery Jessica Sharzer takes you on with her script is mesmerizing, intense, and hilarious.
Just as you think you might have uncovered a small piece of the mystery, a new question gets raised and you are forced to rethink everything. At times, this can get a bit annoying and there are some instances in which it feels like the filmmakers wanted to make things overly complicated, but gratefully, for the most part, these twists feel earned and interesting to follow.
And I cannot stress enough how truly amazing the lead actresses are in both of their roles. Anna Kendrick is a revelation in the role of Stephanie Smothers, who seems like an average online vlogger but quickly shows more sides to her that you won’t expect. Kendrick is one of the most impressive actresses working today and I have loved almost all of her work, and her performance in A Simple Favor is easily one of the strongest of her career.
Plus Blake Lively delivers a scary and intimidating performance as Emily Nelson, who is always a character that you’re unsure of throughout the story. Her past is a little bit blurry and we don’t really know too much about her for a long time. But once we start to figure out her past life and how she got to where she is when the film begins, everything clicks and the story becomes even more enthralling.
The cinematography by John Schwartzman is definitely something to behold as well. There is a wide variety of beautifully framed shots bursting with color and vibrancy sprinkled throughout this film. It’s a visually stunning, expertly told comedy-drama that will have something for everybody to enjoy. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this zany ride.
Overall Grade: A
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nude images, drug use, and violence
Directed by: Paul Feig
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Release Date: September 14, 2018
Running Time: 117 minutes