Director Paul Feig is mostly known for his female-centered comedies ("Bridesmaids," "Spy," "Ghostbusters," and "The Heat"). He loves to work with women, in fact, he's never directed a movie without one in the lead. His latest endeavor is titled "A Simple Favor," it stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively — they both have never been given roles to chew on quite like these.
The screenplay, adapted by Jessica Sharzer from Darcey Bell’s novel, seems to dwell into satirical comedy territory but is also very much a thriller. This mixture of genres doesn't always work out tonally for Feig, but his film never stops entertaining as he tackles a theme that is too good to resist: female friendship.
Kendrick is Stephanie, a single mother, vlogger, and all around compulsive taskmaster that has her world quickly shaken by Lively's uber-rich diva Emily, a martini-chugging fashionista that tries to loosen up Steph in ways she never imagined possible. A date between the two at Emily's Connecticut mansion quickly escalates into a game of truth or dare. Emily, ever the adventurous type, reveals that she once had a threesome with author/professor husband Sean (Henry Golding of "Crazy Rich Asians") and his hot university intern. Steph's story is, however, more revealing, her husband and half-brother both died in the same car accident, even more shocking, she has no idea who's the father of her son Miles (Joshua Satine) because, well, she had a secret affair with her half-bro. Yikes.
A few days later Emily calls Steph and asks if she could take care of her son Nicky (Ian Ho) for the day, she claims that Sean is out of town caring for his sick mother and she could use the help. Steph quickly accepts this simple favor, especially since she now sees Emily as her new bestie, someone that could spice up her uninspiring life. However, Emily never returns. Soon after, she's reported missing. And so, with the help of Sean, Steph goes out on a detective spree to find out what happened. On her vlog, she shares the clues, her viewership starts to rise significantly. Of course, the cops get involved, nobody is to be trusted, including Sean, and the whodunit mystery starts to veer towards Hitchcock campiness.
This is trashy, but compulsively watchable stuff, the kind of page-turner that wouldn't be far-off Jackie Collins territory. However, Kendrick and Lively break through caricature to make their characters indelibly watchable. It’s Hitchcock for stay-at-home moms, even if it’s not hard to figure out where the plot is going. The saving grace is Feig's insistence to never take it too seriously and the casting of his two beautifully intuitive actresses that know exactly the tone their director is going for. It's a lovely little R-rated bonbon spike with malice. [B]