Movie Review: “A Simple Favor”
A Simple Favor
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is an overachieving mother. She signs up for as many volunteer tasks as possible at her son’s school, and has a vlog where she gives parental tips and recipes. Stephanie is the stereotypical perfect mother, but her whole world is turned upside down soon after meeting the mother of her son’s friend, Emily (Blake Lively). Emily has an unorthodox, no-care attitude and a very high paying job as the PR representative for a high-end fashion company.
Despite their many differences, Stephanie and Emily quickly become friends. One day, Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son from school and watch him until she gets back from work. Stephanie assumes Emily will be home late that night but, when Emily does not return, Stephanie knows something is wrong. She takes it upon herself to find out what happened to Emily but, as the mystery intensely unravels, Stephanie realizes that watching Emily’s son would turn out to be much more than a simple favor.
The Pros & Cons
Blake Lively & Emily (+10pts)
The Plot (+8pts)
The Climax (-3pts)
Anna Kendrick (+4pts)
The Vlog (-4pts)
Pro: Blake Lively & Emily (+10pts)
To be fair, I did not really have any expectations, but Blake Lively’s performance was a pleasant surprise. Emily is meant to be an unpredictable, mysterious character, and Blake Lively played that really well. She makes the character feel like a loose cannon with a dark past, who could snap at anytime. At times, she seems loving and sincere, but the character can quickly become very intense.
In the movie, the character is described as an enigma and I honestly cannot think of a word that describes her better. Emily has a very dark past. This is obvious as soon as we meet the character, and I really enjoyed learning about that past as Stephanie unraveled this mystery. Emily was a huge part of this story, and Blake Lively was a big factor in why I enjoyed the character (and the movie as a whole) so much.
Con: Suspects (-4pts)
While, overall, the writing in this movie was well done, I thought one of the story’s weaknesses was that it had a lack of suspects. The mystery was setup well, but the filmmakers failed to provide believable suspects. Granted, we as the audience do not know exactly what happened to Emily, but we know that something happened. An investigation does take place, and if anyone was behind Emily’s disappearance her husband and boss are natural suspects.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers did a poor job of making us believe that either of them could have done it. You will have to see the movie to find out if either of them were responsible. All I am getting at is that the mystery could have been so much more thrilling if the audience believed both suspects were capable of something sinister. This does not break the movie, but there was certainly room for improvement here.
Pro: The Plot (+8pts)
Like I mentioned already, the writing in this movie was really strong. I liked the friendship between Stephanie and Emily, as both characters seemed to gain something and grow from having known the other. The friendship between these two characters was important for the plot of the story because we need to believe that Stephanie is willing to go to great lengths to find out what happened to Emily. Fortunately, the character development was strong for both characters to the point where we understand why Stephanie would do everything she could to solve this mystery.
The plot really thrived in the mystery. I kind of touched on this already, but the mystery gets more and more complicated as Stephanie unravels Emily’s past. There is a point in this movie, where a discovery is made that leaves the audience to believe that the hunt for Emily is over. It certainly felt that way to me until I looked at the time and realized the story was only at its halfway point. There are a couple elements of the story that audiences will see coming, but these are thankfully few and far between. Too many thrillers are predictable these days, but A Simple Favor will keep audiences guessing and will continue to surprise viewers until the end.
Con: The Climax (-3pts)
I am not going to get into the details to avoid spoilers, but I thought the climax of the movie had a couple of issues. Both of these issues are in reference to the main character, Stephanie. The first issue is that I just do not see Stephanie as a climactic thriller kind of character. In other words, her character tends to be light in nature so I do not buy into the climactic ending. It works for the rest of the movie, but it felt like the story’s climax was missing something.
Furthermore, the filmmakers seemed to struggle with the tone of the climax. While this story had plenty of dramatic and thrilling plot points, the story was light hearted. For the climax, the tonal mix does not work. It either needed to lean more toward a serious tone, or toward a light hearted one. The tonal mix ended up feeling confusing and anti-climactic. It was a strong build, but mixing serious and light hearted characters did not work for the climax of this movie.
Pro: Anna Kendrick (+4pts)
Anna Kendrick always plays the same character. For A Simple Favor, this character worked. She is bubbly, quirky, and relatable. This works so well in this movie because the filmmakers clearly tried to create a unique thriller with light hearted filler (yay, that rhymed). In other words, this movie definitely had the plot of a thriller, but the filmmakers tried to connect all the dark plot points with light hearted humor.
Anna Kendrick is silly, but she is relatable, and complemented this story’s darkness very well. She is a very exaggerated version of an overachieving Mom, but she is definitely more relatable than any of the other characters in the story. Where audiences will connect with the character is her cluelessness as to what is going on and her desire to help her friend. If you have seen Anna Kendrick in any other movie, then you know what to expect from her here. Fortunately, this movie benefited from having her in it.
Con: The Vlog (-4pts)
I have complimented the writing of this movie quite a bit, but the vlog concept was definitely the writer’s weakest area. It seemed like Stephanie’s vlog was used whenever the writers had written themselves into a corner. There is no possible way for Stephanie to know where Emily is because she is a stay at home mom? The vlog will solve it! There is no way for Stephanie to contact Emily? The vlog will solve that too!
What if the filmmakers want to make a sequel to this movie? The vlog will even set that up. Whenever the writers ran into a corner and struggled to move the plot along, it was the vlog that got them out of it. It was a huge plot device, if I have ever seen one. The writing in this movie was mostly really strong, but the vlog was blatant, lazy writing.
Grade: B+ (86pts)
A Simple Favor was surprisingly good. Anna Kendrick plays the character you expect her to play, but Blake Lively was an absolute enigma with a dark, mysterious past that was very compelling to see unraveled. The vlog was an obvious plot device and obvious weakness of the film’s writing. However, the plot of this movie was written very well and will keep surprising audiences until the very end.
The filmmakers failed to provide believable suspects and made a climax that was confusing, due to the mix of silly and thrilling tones. It exceeded my expectations, but I would be lying if I said I was expecting a lot. The movie has an interesting plot, a fascinating main character in Emily, and Blake Lively was impressive in the role. A Simple Favor is not going to blow anyone’s mind but there were some great things about the movie that had me entertained from beginning to end.