A Simple Favor review
As a thirty-something unmarried man, I can't say that I understand the pressures of motherhood or living up to my neighborhoods standards. In today's movie, we do have a suburban mother whose thrown into an mystery. That's nothing new, but stories like that have given way to steamy romances and chilling thrillers. In fact, stories about regular people thrown into extraordinary positions are the staple of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock if you consider North by Northwest, Vertigo, and Rear Window. The advantage of these stories is that because the lead character isn't as knowledgeable as a hard-nose detective, that allows the audience to traverse along side the hero as they learn.
The more normal the people, the more likely that an audience will sympathize, no matter how bad their character is (by bad, I mean rebellious). So for today's movie, it makes sense that it would be appealing for a lot of mothers or women in general. Some might see it as sexist to make the character in question a stay-at-home vlogger who embraces the "suburban" stereotype. I say if she's happy, then why change it. Perhaps her perception is changed after what's happened in A Simple Favor.
Vlogger mother Stephanie Smothers (played by Anna Kendrick) is the kind of figure that other mothers hate; always volunteering at school events and making dishes that put the other deserts at the bake sale to shame. While picking up her son Miles, she sees that he's playing with another boy Nicky. His mother is Emily Nelson (played by Blake Lively), a very beautiful, stylish woman that the other parents don't know well. Though Emily tells Stephanie that she doesn't want to her friend, she does let her boy and Stephanie's son over for a playdate. Stephanie and Emily still bond and do become friends. And then a favor is asked.
Stephanie agrees to pick up Miles for Emily while she deals with something. A whole night goes by and Emily doesn't return for her son. Stephanie calls up Emily's husband, professor/failed writer Sean (played by Henry Golding) for help. He admits that Emily's behavior has been odd through their marriage and knows little about her job. With Emily's son with his dad, Stephanie starts to investigate Emily's life to see what has happened to her. Was there something she got herself involved in? Was her husband involved in some way? Will Stephanie get herself into a mess?
Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids,The Heat, Ghostbusters) is a creator whose always at best when studying the relationship between two people. In the case of A Simple Favor, he scores thanks to a carefully crafted script, talented actresses, and a style that does well of invoking the best methods of a Hitchcock film. A lot of the film is what you don't know, which is why I didn't go into greater detail of the overall story. I can say that it builds an almost beautiful mystery…as beautiful as both actresses in question.
Anna Kendrick has the talent of being a beauty and funny. She's the kind of person who can pull off being a quirky, but successful blogger. In a way, I do fell sorry for her, given how the parents seems to dislike her ambition, but I can sympathize as well. Someone like her would probably not care enough what parents would say to the point she's kind of isolated herself without knowing. It would make sense that someone as different as Blake Lively would attract her. Speaking of which, She plays the Grace Kelly to Anna Kendrick's Jimmy Stewart. She is the kind of woman who would be the envy of the world; gorgeous, but also intimidating.
The overall movie does make this journey fascinating to see these two try to figure out each other. A Simple Favordoes feel like a classic Hitchcock movie. It's Paul Feig's writing that attempts interject his brand of comedy into the dialogue. Don't get me, wrong; this is not a comedy. This is more of a way to make comedy something of a defense mechanism. While it works in plenty scenes, it does feel a bit distracting when the side characters act more like people from Bridesmaidsthen an Alfred Hitchcock thriller. I think the film needed one more edit to tighten the dialogue to keep things character driven.
I'll give this four and a half vlog posts out of five. While it's more likely to cater to women, I think A Simple Favorshould do fine attracting people looking for a good mystery/thriller. Give it a watch and see if this deserves a share.