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Movie Review: “A Simple Favor”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

A Simple Favor

Theatrical Release: 9/14/2018

Theatrical Release: 9/14/2018

Synopsis

Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is an overachieving mother. She signs up for as many volunteer tasks as possible at her son’s school, and she 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 Emily (Blake Lively), the mother of her son’s friend. 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.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Blake Lively & Emily (+10pts)

Suspects (-4pts)

The Plot (+8pts)

The Climax (-3pts)

Anna Kendrick (+4pts)

The Vlog (-4pts)

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Pro: Blake Lively & Emily (+10pts)

To be fair, I did not really have any expectations of her, but I thought Blake Lively’s performance was a pleasant surprise. Emily was meant to be an unpredictable, mysterious character, and Blake Lively played her really well. She made the character with an uncertain intensity that made her feel like a loose cannon with a dark past, who could snap at anytime. At times, she seemed loving and sincere, but the character could quickly become very intense at seemingly the flip of a dime.

In the movie, the character was described as an enigma and I honestly cannot think of a word that describes the character better. She had a dark, mysterious past, and that made the character emotionally complex. 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—as much as I did. Blake Lively was just as strong in the character's kinder, more sincere moments, as she was in the character's more unstable and volatile moments. This was a character that needed to be an enigma in order for this story to really work, and I thought Blake Lively did an excellent job with it.

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Con: Suspects (-4pts)

While, the writing in this movie was well done overall, I thought one of the story’s weaknesses was that it had a lack of potential suspects. The mystery was setup well, but the filmmakers failed to provide enough potential suspects to make the mystery truly engaging. Granted, we as the audience did not know exactly what happened to Emily, but we knew that something happened other than her simply vanishing. An investigation took place, and her husband and boss were 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 would have been so much more exciting if the audience believed that either of those two could have done it. We did not know what happened to Emily, and watching Stephanie trying to figure this out was interesting, but making the audience think that Emily's husband, Emily's boss, or both, could have done it would have given this story an antagonist, and it would have hooked the audience even further. We would have wanted to see them brought to justice, and having them pop up on screen would have continuously fueled that fire. By not having any real suspects presented, the filmmakers made this somewhat of a cold mystery.

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Pro: The Plot (+8pts)

I liked the friendship between Stephanie and Emily, as both characters seemed to gain something and grow from having known one another. The friendship between these two characters was important for the plot of the story. We needed to believe that Stephanie was willing to go to great lengths to find out what happened to Emily, and in that respect, I thought the filmmakers succeeded. The plot of this movie was really all about the mystery, and that mystery got more and more complicated as Stephanie unraveled Emily’s past.

There was a point in this movie where a discovery was made that led the audience to believe that the hunt for Emily was 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 were a couple elements of the story that audiences will see coming, but for the most part, this mystery had plenty of surprises. Too many thrillers are predictable these days, but A Simple Favor will keep audiences guessing and it will continue to throw surprises at its viewers until the end.

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Con: The Climax (-3pts)

The filmmakers also seemed to struggle with the tone of the climax. Stephanie was a light hearted character in nature. She was bubbly, and her behavior was caring, silly and optimistic. However, this character was thrown into the plot of a mystery thriller. While this mix was fun and interesting throughout the story, I do not think it worked for the climax.

To start, I did not buy Stephanie as a badass protagonist in a mystery thriller. It just did not fit with everything else we had seen of the character. On top of that, the mix in tones sort of made the whole thing fall flat. It either needed to lean more toward the silly, light hearted side of things, or the dramatic, thriller side of things. By trying to be both simultaneously, it made it so that the climax did not work as either.

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Pro: Anna Kendrick (+4pts)

Anna Kendrick always plays the same character in almost every movie she is in. For A Simple Favor, this character worked. She was bubbly, quirky, and relatable, and it worked so well in this movie because the filmmakers clearly tried to create a unique thriller with light hearted filler. 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, which was where Anna Kendrick was so effective.

Anna Kendrick was silly, but she was relatable, and she complemented this story’s darkness very well. She was a very exaggerated version of an overachieving Mom, but she was definitely more relatable than any of the other characters in the story. Audiences will relate to her, because of her cluelessness regarding what was going on, but they will also appreciate 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, but I thought this movie benefited from having her in it—except for the climax, unfortunately.

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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 was no possible way for Stephanie to know where Emily was because Stephanie was simply a stay at home mom without the resources of a police officer or detective? The vlog solved that issue, no problem! There was no way for Stephanie to contact a certain character who had gone dark? No problem, the vlog was able to solve that too.

They even used the vlog to set something up for a potential sequel. Literally 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 blatant, lazy plot device if I have ever seen one. The writing in this movie was mostly really strong, but the vlog was the weak link in that chain.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (86pts)

A Simple Favor was surprisingly good. Anna Kendrick played the character you would expect her to play, but Blake Lively was a surprisingly captivating enigma, with a dark, mysterious past that I enjoyed seeing get unraveled. The vlog was an obvious plot device and obvious weak spot in the story’s writing, but the plot of this movie was mostly well done, as it will keep surprising audiences until the very end. Unfortunately, the filmmakers failed to provide believable suspects and they made a climax that was confusing, because they tried to make it be two things at once, and I did not think the mix worked. The movie ultimately exceeded my expectations, but I would be lying if I said I was expecting great things from this movie. The movie had an interesting plot, a compelling main character in Emily, and Blake Lively was impressive in the role.