Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Film Review #107

A Simple Favor (2018)
Director: Paul Feig Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Bashir Salahuddin, Jean Smart, Rupert Friend

Certificate: 15 Running Time: 117 Minutes

Tagline: "Can you keep a secret?"

I have become very wary of Paul Feig's name over the last few years. This is mainly owing to his apparent partiality to Melissa McCarthy to whom I quickly became allergic upon first seeing one of her films, which was a product of their collaborations. I am, however, the opposite of wary when it comes to the delightful Anna Kendrick, so what do I do when she stars in a Feig film? When first news of A Simple Favor reached me, I'm sorry to say that fear soundly defeated affection, even with McCarthy's name nowhere to be seen, and I duly noted it down on my mental 'films to avoid' list. But then news began to reach me of its alleged splendour. I was also mildly startled to see it appearing on some people's 'Best Films of 2018' lists. With this new and unexpected information at hand, I summoned the will to slap fear around the chops with the back of my hand and set out in pursuit of this possibly-fine-after-all film.

My eyeballs were overjoyed to find that Ms. Kendrick is the star of the show from the off as Stephanie, a widowed mother whose cheerful bright-eyed exterior hides a more tragic past. She spends much of her free time sharing crafts and cookery tips via her vlog, and also arranging play dates for her son and other kids from his school. It is while doing the latter she meets and quickly becomes friends with Emily (Lively), a heavy-drinking PR director whose otherwise-passionate marriage to Sean (Golding) has come under increasing financial strain. She and Stephanie enjoy drinking and telling stories when Stephanie isn't taking care of both of their children. To outside observers, Emily is taking advantage of her but Stephanie is just happy to have a friend and enjoys telling everyone about her on her vlog.

That is, until the day Emily phones asking for the 'simple favour' of the title which involves picking up her son from school and looking after him, as she has found herself doing often anyway. This time, however, Emily doesn't return, leading to obvious concern from Emily and Sean, and soon the first in a series of visits by Detective Summervile (Salahuddin) as well. All the while, Stephanie keeps all of her rapidly-increasing subscribers up to date with the case with regular vlog posts, but who else might also be watching? Who knows, but the whole saga certainly seems to open Stephanie's seemingly-innocent eyes in addition to providing us with a nice twisty-turny mystery to unravel, and Kendrick is the perfect choice for our conduit.

You could say she's playing to type with her quirky, cute character but she's very appealing as ever. Lively is not playing to type, however. I almost didn't recognise her as the mysterious Emily at first actually. I guess that means she did a really good job too! Besides, what film could be bad with these talented ladies centre stage? Happily, it's not this one. The supporting cast is also strong - I particularly enjoyed Salahuddin as the suspicious detective - and the script and direction are also top-notch resulting in a genuinely intriguing story whose direction is rarely obvious. It's great fun finding out where it's going next too, and the film was a very pleasant surprise overall. In fact, I might even be inclined to check out future Feig films too. As long as McCarthy, is nowhere in sight that is, naturally.

RKS Score: 8/10


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