Opposites attract in “A Simple Favor,” the latest comedic drama from Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids,” “Ghostbusters”). Brought together by their sons, awkward mommy vlogger, Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), meets Emily (Blake Lively), a mysterious workaholic. Stephanie and Emily soon form an unusual bond with the help of strong martinis and dark secrets.
At first impression, Stephanie comes off as a high-strung parent-teacher organization mom, always looking for another field trip to chaperone or another item to bring to the bake sale. As audiences get to know Stephanie, they’ll find she isn’t as innocent as she seems.
Stephanie has known great tragedy in her life. When she was young, her father died and her brother and husband died together in a car accident, widowing her with a boy to raise on her own.
Stephanie and Emily soon become friends even though their lives seem completely different.
On a casual stop to pick up her son from school, Emily pulls up in a fancy black sports car. She steps out wearing high heels and a striking power suit, commanding the attention of parents and teachers alike. Emily works as the head of public relations for a high-end fashion brand, which explains her impeccable taste and dress.
Everything changes after Emily disappears just weeks after the unlikely friendship begins. Stephanie discusses Emily’s strange disappearance on her vlog, attracting the attention of thousands of followers and making the vlog a viral sensation. The audience experiences their toxic relationship in a series of flashbacks as she recounts her memories. The movie, until this point, is a drawn-out with anticipation, waiting for something bad to happen. But when Emily disappears, the drama starts and viewers will start to shift to the edge of their seats.
As the police begin to question Stephanie and Emily’s husband, Sean (Henry Golding), they realize they know Emily less than they originally thought. Flashbacks make it evident the relationship between Stephanie and Emily is rather one-sided. With ease, Emily managed to coax out the darkest confessions of Stephanie, and in return, Emily remained very private, keeping her secrets well-guarded.
As the days go by and Emily is nowhere to be found, Stephanie begins to dig into Emily’s past, and what she finds is quite contrary to Emily’s high-class, elegant persona she has come to know oh-so-well.
Audiences will follow along with Stephanie in her investigative endeavors, feeling confused but determined to find out the truth. The convincing acting of Lively and Kendrick, as well as Jessica Sharzer’s enticing screenplay, will keep audiences engaged and wanting to analyze every minute for clues.
Emily’s disappearance is the catalyst to an unraveling of secrets and a dark past. Audiences see the polite, clean facades of Stephanie and Emily transform into twisted, complex characters.
The plot follows several twists and turns, just enough to thoroughly confuse and delight the audience with disbelief.
“A Simple Favor” is decidedly entertaining — albeit with a trouble-in-suburbia plot. While it’s extremely exaggerated and over-the-top, it’s also engaging and light-hearted — making fun of its ridiculous plot twists at times.
Kendrick and Lively fulfill both the drama and comedy aspects their roles require. Kendrick plays off Stephanie’s awkward humor well, giving audiences some comic relief from the dramatic tension of the plot. Despite Kendrick’s character’s awkwardness, she shows her versatility in the way she turns from a naive helicopter mom to a quick-thinking, risk-taking badass.
Lively has experience playing the “It Girl” from previous experiences, including the popular television show, “Gossip Girl.” In “A Simple Favor,” Lively settles back into familiar territory to make Stephanie and the audience envious of her beauty and charisma; but she shows a dark side in this role in an unexpectedly convincing way.
There’s much to appreciate in “A Simple Favor:” its humor, thrill and clever plot twists. But, in following an increasing trend, audiences will appreciate the solid execution of two strong female characters in all their mess and glory.