A Simple Favor
In the wake of the terrible trilogy of The Heat, Spy and Ghostbusters, Paul Feig at last returns to quality filmmaking with A Simple Favor, his first respectable effort since 2011’s Bridesmaids.
Blessedly, there’s no free-range Melissa McCarthy in this twisty dark comedy and also minimal sign of improv thanks to some combination of a talented cast and an engaging script by Jessica Sharzer (Nerve), adapting Darcey Bell’s novel.
The compelling story centers on energetic widow Stephanie (Anna Kendrick, allowed to show some range for the first time in a while) befriending cagey fellow mom Emily (an entertainingly confident Blake Lively) through their sons, then attempting to solve what caused the latter’s sudden disappearance.
Nicely complicating matters is Emily’s maybe shady husband Sean (Henry Golding, keeping his hot streak going after Crazy Rich Asians) and hints of an unreliable narrator with the framing device of Stephanie’s vlog and sketchy recollections of the car accident that claimed her husband and half-brother.
While the filmmakers don’t quite succeed in connecting Stephanie’s past hardships with her present, nor in clarifying in the moment precisely who is in on what scheme and quintuple cross, it all blends together into an intriguing mystery — though one that requires an info dump or two to answer the heap of questions perhaps inevitable for a mainstream film with decent ambitions.
Grade: B. Rated R. Now playing at AMC Classic, Biltmore Grande and Carolina Cinemark