Paul Feig decided to do something radically different after directing the female-led Ghostbusters reboot that, to say the least, didn’t go as planned. To rebound, he decided to tackle an adaptation of a twisty thriller novel from first-time author Darcey Bell and forgo his usual “comedy first” sensibilities. He’s done something the likes of which we’ve never seen him do before. The result? A Simple Favor may very well be Feig’s finest movie to date. It’s an incredibly stylish, delightfully effective thriller that would maybe even make Alfred Hitchcock proud.
A Simple Favor starts out simple enough. It centers around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a single mom who runs a modest vlog on the side for other moms. She winds up befriending Emily (Blake Lively), who is her exact opposite. Fancy clothes, fancy job, ideal husband, seemingly perfect house and life. But as their friendship blossoms, Stephanie sees some of the cracks that exist in Emily’s idealistic existence. Things get very complicated when Emily disappears without a trace. Stephanie makes it her mission to uncover the truth behind her best friend’s sudden disappearance, all while doing her best to comfort Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Goulding), which comes with its own set of issues.
Up to this point, Paul Feig has primarily been known for his comedic exploits and working with female-driven casts. Both of those elements are still very important to this movie and there’s something about the way he handles female characters that is just a cut above, but this is a stone-cold thriller full of twists, surprises and shocking reveals. Seriously, this thing has a lot of twists thrown in and, it feels like a lot at times, but they all lead somewhere. It’s purposeful. This isn’t crafted just to be shocking for the sake of shocking. That’s where thrillers such as this can really lose their way and this movie really stays on the tracks in that respect.
It’s not at all the kind of thing one would have thought Paul Feig would end up doing, but he pulls it off incredibly well. That said, it still feels like one of his movies. It’s still very funny, but the humor isn’t necessary, nor does it get in the way. The scales are miraculously balanced. Tonally, it kind of ends up being like Gone Girl meets Gossip Girl and, as bizarre as that may sound, it really works. In terms of the overall look, this is a stylish bit of filmmaking. If you’ve ever seen Feig, he’s a man who generally wears very sharp three-piece suits pretty much everywhere he goes. This feels like a movie that was crafted by a man in a sharp three-piece suit. That’s perhaps the best way to explain it.
Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively were the two perfect co-leads for this. Kendrick is multi-talented and we’ve known that for years. She can sing, be funny, cute, serious. It all works for her and she’s had plenty of chances to showcase those talents over the years. A Simple Favor is just another perfect vehicle for her. As for Lively, she’s displayed talent over the years, but she rarely gets a chance to truly shine. She disappears into this role and, without question, this is her absolute best showcase of acting ability to date. Lively, at her best in this movie, is easily the best thing about it. Henry Goulding, who also recently had a nice turn in Crazy Rich Asians, helps further cement his position as the man of the moment in another interesting role.
This ultimately ends up being an enjoyable movie on all phases. Well acted, meticulously crafted, funny, exciting, unexpected, well-paced and purely entertaining. A Simple Favor is not only the movie Paul Feig needed to bounce back, this movie needed him as well. Don’t let the latest from Lionsgate pass you by.