Review by Chelsea Pickens
As I think is probably true with a lot people, I only really know Blake Lively as the ‘cool sexy girl’ from Gossip girl and poppy teen-targeted movies like Age of Adeline, and Anna Kendrick as the ‘awkward but adorable girl’ from other poppy teen-targeted movies like Pitch Perfect.
So I was pretty intrigued to see them both potentially develop from such typecasts in what looked to be a dark, styley thriller A Simple Favor, directed by Paul Feig. And while the preview did look engaging, my real interest in seeing the movie was definitely to see just how these two navigated the suspense/thriller roles.
Well what do you know – the film was based around the premise that Anna Kendrick was the awkward, adorable girl to Blake Lively’s cool, sexy girl, *sigh*. Nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised at how Blake Lively wove a definitive dark and edgy streak through her character Emily, who between constantly downing martinis and killing a lady power suit, offered the audience a convincing portrayal of a disillusioned, powerful yet trapped mother, wife, friend, and career woman, struggling to juggle each identity.
Enter Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), the bubbly ‘awkward but adorable’ solo mum who edges her way into Emily’s chaotic world, one alcohol fuelled play date at a time. And yes, Anna Kendrick gives us a likable, naïve contrast to worldly, secretive Emily, however it was hard to shake the feeling that her character could’ve been plucked straight out of Pitch Perfect and dumped into this thriller, her performance was just all too familiar.
The main attraction in this film lay in watching these crazily well-dressed women uncover (or cover up) juicy secrets. And I don’t say well-dressed lightly – even I, someone with no real interest in fashion, found the aesthetically pleasing styles each character inhabited a real treat for the eyes. But the movie didn’t hang on just fashion, it depended on those juicy secrets to lead us through the suspense of what really happened to Emily when she asks Stephanie ‘a simple favour’ of picking up her son from school one afternoon, to never return.
Up until now the movie was pretty engaging and enjoyable, and I was genuinely interested to see what happened next. But from here it becomes slightly incoherent with Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) entering the mix as a prime suspect, and potential new love interest for Stephanie. There must be more to this story than a simple husband kills wife for insurance money right.. And sure, with a movie of this scale there obviously is, but the convoluted story that followed felt a bit unclear, rushed, and convenient.
And while there were a few twists and turns, the movie came together a little too harmoniously for me, peppered with some forced ‘humorous’ one-liners in the most dramatic scenes that made me cringe. I definitely would have preferred a more gut-wrenching end, rather than a cookie cutter tying together, exposing the movie as conforming to a typical blockbuster formula – but I suppose there are those poppy teen fans to appease.