2 ½ (out of 4)
Paul Feig has next to nothing to live up to. The creation of Freaks and Geeks and a few episodes of The Office notwithstanding his output has been primarily characterized by nauseating Judd Apatow-tier improvisational farces. In offering women in Hollywood and ladies in the audience mainstream alternatives in film, the Ghostbusters remake, The Heat and even the overprized Bridesmaids hardly count as reasonable substitutes for exemplary comedies.
A diversion from the rubbish defining his career of late, A Simple Favor is a nimbly scripted respite, a gaily relaxing guessing game that succeeds almost entirely by virtue of Anna Kendrick’s instinctively emphatic talents. The story itself, quickly adapted from Darcey Bell's 2017 debut novel of the same name, is the sort of paperback fluff sure to rest on an upper class mother's coffee table – that is, loaded with sex, murder and overreaching intrigue. But before it tries to get cutesy clever in the predictable climax the film is actually pleasantly intriguing.
However, A Simple Favor operates better as a digestible mystery than as a black comedy, feminine thriller or as social commentary – if there wasn’t so much soap opera machination, Favor would be a real chore or just wouldn't have demanded to be made in the first place. Feig's film thrives mostly on account of the casting but at least the dialogue is decently droll and the plotting is expeditious.
While the roles of both Kendrick and Blake Lively are perfectly suited for their strengths, Lively can’t help but play a subsidiary part next to Kendrick’s alluring acting acumen. No part of her character's transformation from bashful, mommy-blogging widower to chic crime-solver feels as far-fetched as everything surrounding her. Kendrick's dainty docility is adroitly exercised while the script also grants the Oscar-nominated actress an excuse to flaunt her ample range.
A Simple Favor brings a brand new definition to the word convoluted in a sinuous story still comfortable enough to get wrapped in, even aside from Kendrick's distinct magnetism. The real solid that Feig did for all of us was any movie without Melissa McCarthy.
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