A Simple Favour
The "dark side of Paul Feig" is worth checking out on DVD for its ballsy twists, engagingly off-kilter performances, and drop-dead gorgeous costume design
It is a shame that Paul Feig’s mystery thriller-melodrama – an exciting departure for the Bridesmaids auteur – was lost at the autumn box office; while somewhat hampered by an uneven tone and baffling story, it is certainly worth checking out on the small screen for its ballsy twists, engagingly off-kilter performances, and drop-dead gorgeous costume design. While stuffed too full to have much substance behind the shocks, A Simple Favour is surprising, entertaining and gorgeous to look at – it is hard to want more, even if it does not stick in the mind for long.
Billed as the “dark side” of the American comedy stalwart, the film’s genre-defying nature is both its greatest strength and Achilles' heel. It involves the unlikely friendship that forms over early afternoon Martinis between Stephanie (Kendrick), an uptight mommy blogger, and Emily (Blake Lively), a glamorous publicist with a killer wardrobe, before the latter goes missing. Little else can be said before wading into spoiler territory, but the pace at which moods, tropes, and plot points unfold and fold into each other is entertaining, if ultimately slight. The film’s coherence suffers from this tonal whiplash, but its fearlessness in some initial twists undermines any expectations from the trailer/marketing material and makes what follows an enthralling ride. Thankfully, Feig does not take his story too seriously, keeping the tone light throughout so that the more ridiculous reveals increase the melodramatic fun instead of heightening disbelief.
The performers’ self-awareness of the fantastical premise, as well as strong comedic instincts, ultimately sell the piece. Kendrick’s subversion of her overachieving everywoman type is a stroke of genius, and Lively’s charisma sells the other characters’ fascination with the missing, mysterious Emily. The supporting cast of American comedy television stalwarts are woefully underused, but they add charisma and quasi-commentary to their brief appearances. The production design cannot be faulted – Emily’s house and immaculate wardrobe are pure interior design and fashion pornography.
Available on digital download on 14 Jan and DVD, Blu-Ray from 21 Jan from Lionsgate; certificate 15