A SIMPLE FAVOUR
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a mommy blogger who plays detective as she tries to discover what happened after the disappearance of her best friend Emily (Blake Lively).
Review by Louise Keller:
Sex, secrets and a mommy blogger are some of the ingredients of this slick, trashy crime thriller whose stylish elements of glamour wardrobe, sensual content and Serge Gainsbourg pop songs are occasionally at odds with its tone. The injection of quirky comedy at unexpected times never sits comfortably, prising us out of the film's reality. It probably sizzled on the page with its themes of incest, threesomes, adultery and murder, yet the film struggles to maintain its credibility as it buoyantly wonders what it wants to be. Is it a comedy? A buddy movie? A murder mystery? A sexy thriller? One thing is for sure, there's plenty of eye candy in the shapely form of Blake Lively, who is dressed (and undressed) to kill in statement stilettos, revealing jackets and portrayed in erotic nude paintings.
Lively's femme fatale Emily is the converse of the butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth Stephanie (Anna Kendrick in good form), although as the exposition takes hold, we learn much more about both characters and their dubious pasts. Lively plays sexy without effort, while Kendrick's comedic timing is perfect, albeit the direction is misjudged at times. The lines of dialogue fly fast and there are some great lines, like Stephanie's 'Secrets are like margarine - easy to spread and bad for the heart' and Emily's 'Prudes are people too'. Watch for the scene when the girls 'reset' on supersized martinis and share their most intimate secrets.
When the film begins, we are introduced to Stephanie's blog, as she tells her audience that her best friend Emily is missing. It is in flashback that we learn the truth about their friendship and how these diametrically different women meet and become friends. They look, dress and behave differently, with statuesque Lively at 5'10" towering above the diminutive Kendrick. Fresh off the set of Crazy Rich Asians, Henry Golding is the weak link as Emily's failed novelist husband. There is no chemistry between Golding and either of the two women - their sex scenes are like watching grass grow.
To its credit, the film never lets up in pace or intensity and our interest is maintained throughout the many twists and turns of the multiple story strands. The musical backdrop of French pop songs brings a delightful playfulness as red herrings are tossed into the air and we are kept on our toes. Towards the end everything gets a bit muddled; just let things wash over you and everything is revealed in the end. Adapted from Darcey Bell's novel, I suspect the film that director Paul Feig's has made is not exactly the one he had in mind.
Not everything works and for me, much of the humour falls flat. However our eyes are riveted to the two striking leading ladies, who demonstrate without any doubt that a favour is never simple.
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A SIMPLE FAVOUR (M)
CAST: Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick, Henry Golding, Ian Ho, Joshua Satine, Andrew Rannells, Kelly McCormack
PRODUCER: Paul Feig, Jessie Henderson
DIRECTOR: Paul Feig
SCRIPT: Jessica Sharzer (novel by Darcey Bell)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Schwarzmann
EDITOR: Brent White
MUSIC: Thoedore Shapiro
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jefferson Sage
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 20, 2018