You can pick your friends, but not their psychotic tendencies.
That is a fact Mommy Blogger and PTA MVP Stephanie Smothers, played by Anna Kendrick, is forced to discover rather quickly in “A Simple Favor,” directed by Paul Feig. This dark comedy is a new version of the overdone “whodunit” film, with a plot that walks the line between predictable and shocking with every turn.
Based on the novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, the movie sets the stage with the unlikely friendship between Kendrick’s Stephanie and femme fatale Emily Nelson, played by Blake Lively. The contrast between Stephanie’s mom of the year personality and Emily’s overworked, under attentive and typically intoxicated lifestyle is stark.
Within the first half hour, the two form a wildly unbalanced friendship centered around sipping gin martinis and conveniently ignoring their sons so viewers can learn the dirty secrets that become important later on.
Kendrick’s performance is bubbly and nauseatingly optimistic, while Lively’s poise and beauty traps the audience in her web, much like her character wrapping everyone around her finger.
Until she goes missing.
The movie proceeds to follow the tried-and-true thriller storyline. Stephanie, acting as the distraught best friend, becomes the key to uncovering the truth about Emily’s disappearance. Her sleuthing unravels a complicated and somewhat cringe-worthy storyline of long-lost siblings, betrayal, and forbidden love.
Advertised as a thriller, “A Simple Favor” was not what I expected. As an avid avoider of horror movies, I went in prepared to be scared. But, I wasn’t. This isn’t an “on the edge of your seat” film, though it does its best to add a jump scare or two.
Audiences are bound to be enthralled. Though many of the answers behind the twists and turns don’t require Sherlock Holmes-level detective work, the race to uncover each character’s next move keeps viewers actively questioning.
Just when you start to get comfortable, the unexpected happens. These are the moments jaws drop. The balance between predictable and shocking is what makes this movie more than just another murder mystery.
With a rating of 83 percent on Rotten Tomatoes after its first weekend, it’s clear the movie has done well enough to be worth viewing, but it hasn’t wowed.
The moments that surprised me were exceptional, but the ones I saw coming didn’t differentiate themselves from the thousands of other thrillers I could’ve chosen.
“A Simple Favor” opened and closed a mystery in less than two hours with very few loose ends and a satisfying ending, and sometimes that’s all we can ask for.