A Simple Favor ***

Intriguing crime drama is a winner thanks to Paul Feig’s sure-handed direction and spirited performances from Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. 

Is it worth $10? Yes 

If it feels like good crime dramas are few and far between, it’s because they are. Most movies of this genre try to be twisty and fun and keep us guessing, only to fail to hold up through the end. Not “A Simple Favor,” though. The twists and turns of the clever story, along with strong performances from Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, make this a definite winner, great for a date night or evening out with the girls.

“A Simple Favor” isn’t a psychological thriller so much as it is a psychological drama. Widowed perfect mother Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is loving and attentive to her young son Miles (Joshua Satine). She also has no friends. One day after school she meets Emily (Blake Lively), whose son Nicky (Ian Ho) is friends with Miles. After a few (strong) martinis, and in spite of Emily telling her “You don’t want to be friends with me, trust me,” within a few weeks they’re best friends.  

So when Emily asks her new BFF to pick up Nicky because she’s overwhelmed at work, Stephanie readily accepts. But then Emily doesn’t come get Nicky, and with Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) out of town, Stephanie is left with the boy. For days. Days during which Emily doesn’t pick up her phone. She’s disappeared completely, which prompts Stephanie to conduct her own investigation. What happens, how, and why are wonderfully intriguing, admittedly not in a nail-biter fashion, but in a way that will keep you thoroughly engaged throughout.

It comes as a surprise that “A Simple Favor” was directed by Paul Feig, heretofore best known as the man who made “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat” and “Spy.” He’s doing more than dipping his toe in another genre here – he’s also succeeding in an impressive way. The shocks are nicely paced throughout the 117-minute running time, and he nicely punctures the veneer of perfection that Stephanie and Emily (and no doubt, by extension, many suburban mothers) try to maintain in view of others. For example, after their first meeting Stephanie goes to Emily’s house. Emily appears to be in a business suit, but at home we learn the shirt around her collars and wrists is fake, i.e. they are only pieces of clothing that make it look like she’s wearing a suit, and are not part of a full shirt. Symbolically, she’s showing that she’s not all she appears to be.

Reports are that fans of the book upon which the movie is based, written by Darcey Bell, are in for quite a surprise with a new ending. I haven’t read the book and therefore can’t comment, but will say the ending of the movie works. The pieces of the puzzle add up, and again to Feig’s credit, no notable plot points are left unattended. It’d be nice if more crime dramas were this well told.

Did you know?
For more on the ending of the novel, click here:

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