Out of figuratively nowhere, Paul Feig has arrived back onto the scene with a surreal mysterious comedy outing that really holds its own in more ways than one. At times, A Simple Favor was a confusing puzzle that appeared to have a few missing pieces during its runtime, only to find and place them at the end, making a complete picture.
If we just forget about the latest Ghostbusters film, the reality is that Paul Feig has a phenomenal track record. So is A Simple Favor a kind of redemption for the well known female centric director after his latest? The answer is easy: Absolutely. His direction is stellar as usual, but instead of an outrageous comedy, he is redirecting his talents in a much more dry satire fashion, that takes on the crime thriller with confidence. His use of Stephanie’s vlog to give a outsider perspective, when actually in reality the outsiders are us, the viewers, is a brilliant narrative device. Especially when we aren’t getting the full story of each character, but instead an outsider view of the suspects, which is made clear with the first and final shot of the film being the vlog.
There are so many twists and turns throughout, that I began to wonder if screenwriter Jessica Sharzer (Nerve) could manage to pull it all back together in the end. She did and she did it with ease, as somehow even though it looked like the film was becoming a little too convoluted for its own good, Sharzer and Feig pulled it all back together to make a satisfying and conclusive ending. A mystery that isn’t something to try to solve right away but one to divulge itself at a later point in the film; to then not be the only mystery to be solved, as plenty of interworking strands of story slowly sew themselves together, to make one cohesive mystery thriller. While the film does take quite a few liberties at times to explore the genre and to become in its own way a satire of the genre, it is also a prime example of a quality film in the process. I had little to no idea where the story was heading, with nearly every other scene taking the viewer to a location that was never discussed nor sought after at any time in the film. Yet all these scenes clash well, creating a singular story with many different elements to make it the right amount of complicated, in order to make it a little more worthwhile when the credits roll.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
It’s not too often that we get a high caliber performance from Blake Lively, and that’s not to condemn her as a bad actress, because she isn’t, it’s just poorly selected roles for the majority of her career. Her character is mysterious, stunning, and complicated with little to no known character background prior to her apparent disappearance. Anna Kendrick plays a similar character as she normally would, a shy, overly jealous, kind-hearted woman who gets distracted by an obvious interference in the film. That interference being the ever so charming Henry Golding as the husband (Sean) of Blake Lively’s Emily, who through his actions seems more and more suspicious in his wife’s disappearance. So what happened to Emily? It could be a number of things, but it’s up to the viewer to figure out before the clock ticks down to nothing. In the acting category, I honestly have zero issues with any of the actors involved, the humor landed for me with it’s intense subtlety and the awkward relaxed nature each character has with one another is a unique attribute that I believe only Feig could of brought to the table. If I were to gripe about one minor eye-roll worthy issue, it would be the involvement of the other parents as side characters, as their jokes hardly land and their presence seems rather unnecessary from the first time they appear, to the literal climax of the feature.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The music coordinator for A Simple Favor did an excellent job at representing the different atmospheres, while in fact going a little too crazy for comedic timing at one moment in the film, they came back to make a stunningly appropriate selection of tunes for the film. Composer Theodore Shapiro is known more for his comedic scores than his dramatic, but his most memorable being the mesmerizing score from 2013’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which sets expectations for his score relatively high. That’s the main reason why this score disappoints, it’s not bad by any means and is actually an incredible score, that gets crammed into the background by all the prominent lyrical songs within the films runtime. It’s unfortunate circumstances for Shapiro, but not one that is a demerit on his career in any way.
It’s high fashion design that Feig and his team of artists have prospered from in A Simple Favor. Each character has their own unique characteristic that is made visually apparent in the article of clothings they all wear. The violence, the high strung emotions, and a sign of addiction are all wonderfully seen with the terrific execution of the makeup. When it comes to sets, the film explores a few venues for reference in the disappearance of Emily, however the house where she and her husband once lived is the primary set used in the film and is most definitely a much needed contrast between Emily’s life and Stephanie’s (Kendrick). A significant car crash is extraordinary to watch and as we gather more backstory as to the details behind, the said crash, the more dramatic and well shot the scene becomes. Also a particular injury that takes place near the concluding scene of the film, is not only a very well directed moment in the feature, but another gracious nod to the makeup department as well.
It’s difficult not to recommend A Simple Favor to anyone who wants a mystery to solve, you may have ideas as to where the story is headed. Whether that be from prior films including a disappearing wife, I’m talking to you, Gone Girl or that you think the film is providing obvious hints, think again. This isn’t an easy mystery to crack and even when you think you have, you haven’t. It’s a stylish redemption for the legendary director, who really needed this comeback to prove himself once again to fans of his work and it’s always worthwhile to see not only a mystery done right, but a proper book adaptation as well.