A SIMPLE FAVOR is a pretty good movie that could’ve been fantastic if it didn’t stumble in its landing the last five minutes of the film. But it could’ve fell flat on its face, so I’ll be that glass half full film reviewer today. It’s Paul Feig’s third best film, right behind Bridesmaids and Spy, and definitely makes up for the bullshit that was the Ghostbusters remake/reboot a couple of years ago. Almost the whole time during the movie I was like, “Holy shit, Feig has actually stepped up his game as a director” and was really really really into it, but those last five minutes, his Ghostbusters attempt at physical and dreadful one liner humor peaks out with a very unnecessary pre credits summary of what the characters (that survived) are doing currently. But I’m willing to forgive it, because what came before had a almost pitch perfect tone and the dark humor was devilishly, deliciously funny. Oh, and Blake Lively finally showed that she can actually muster up some kind of performance if need be.
See, I like Blake Lively as a human being (I think her relationship ((so far)) with Ryan Reynolds is perfect and they are a truly happily married Hollywood couple), but I can’t stand her as an actress. The closest she has ever become to actually doing something of note was her small bit in The Town, which even then I didn’t believe her so much a drug addicted stripper/prostitute/whatever the fuck her character was supposed to be in that. But here, she sinks into an abnormally prideful spoiled rich housewife that befriends a quirky widowed Anna Kendrick so that their sons can have play dates. To not spoil the rest of the movie, I’ll just say that Blake Lively goes missing and Anna Kendrick tries to find out what happened to her new found friend, while trying to make sure Lively’s son and husband are okay in the process. Anybody that ruins this movie for you is a monster. It has revelation upon revelation until the end credits roll. There are double crosses, triple crosses, and I think maybe even a quadruple cross? The movie keeps you guessing, which I appreciated. I could compare this movie to another movie and that movies book that it is based on, but if I reveal the title, I reveal all. I don’t think it rips off that book/movie per say, especially with the multiple different revelations, but some of the plotting is very, VERY similar. You’ll know exactly which book/movie I’m talking about when you see it, but if you don’t, just message me and I’ll give you a “ah-ha!” kind of moment.
What makes the movie really work first and foremost is Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. Oh, and I can’t get away with not mentioning Henry Golding either(he plays Lively’s husband in this and he was just one of the leads in a breakout film, you might’ve heard of it: Crazy Rich Asians). But this is Kendrick and Lively’s show, and their chemistry is palpable, they just play off each other like a perfect acting pair that every director and screenwriter probably dreams of. This is Anna Kendrick’s best work since Up In The Air and Pitch Perfect. Kendrick, while fantastic, her role is a little familiar to people that like her and watch all of her filmography. She’s still that overly quirky and awkward character that you can’t help but adore, however this film really uses that aspect of her to its advantage, and turns it into something a little different and definitely more delightful. Blake Lively is in command here, where whenever she’s on screen you can’t help by being fascinated with what comes out of her mouth and what she is going to do or say next. All three of them turn what are already well rounded written characters into something you can’t take your eyes or ears off of.
And the tone is brilliant too for the most part. The first half of this film is near perfect. It’s a dark comedy that walks that fine line but is smart enough know to not cross over too much on either side. The film has bright, vibrant cinematography and that feel any director or screenwriter wants of a eerie suburbia is gloriously executed here, and never tries to be what it isn’t. Many films have gotten it wrong in the past, most recently the awfully executed Surburbicon from George Clooney. Now in the last five minutes, that fine line the film was walking must’ve tripped on a shoe lace that had impeccable timing to be untied right when the film was about to end. It stumbled into a straight comedy with none of that pinch of darkness that we got throughout the other 1 and 50 minutes. But I don’t know, I may need to do some research, because if the book ends exactly like that, with a physical moment and a stupid lame one liner that is played for forced laughs, then I won’t blame Feig. But it just felt like 2016 Ghostbusters Feig, and if true, he should’ve known better than to try and lighten the tone at near the very last moment of the film. And like I said, those title cards of what the characters were doing after the events that took fold before the end credits hit was unnecessary and should’ve been cut or re written as something else. And while I did like some of the revelations, there is one that I wish it would’ve stuck to, it would’ve been ingenious to end on that note and made for a savory little treat that you could talk with people at the water cooler, but the movie took it further, and I’m willing to be the book did too, so I can’t nit pick too much.
But yes, I did enjoy Paul Feig’s new movie, until the movie started playing I was mainly shrugging it off because of that disaster of a Ghostbusters reboot. But Feig shows here he might have some untapped talent in that weird noggin of his, maybe someday it will bring us something that can be considered a masterpiece. This is a very good film with a couple of problems that keep it from achieving that benchmark.