Watch Out For Those Simple Favors!

“A Simple Favor” stars Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding.  Jessica Sharzer adapted it for the big screen from a novel that just came out last year by Darcey Bell.  Paul Feig directed this mostly engaging thriller that also has a biting dark humor.

I will start off with saying most of this film works pretty well.  Anna Kendrick plays a young widow who does various homemaking video blogs to support herself. Her young son becomes friend with another boy at school. This leads to Kendrick’s character, Stephanie, befriending the other child’s mother, played by Blake Lively.  Emily is a very intriguing sort with both a sense of elegance and dangerous recklessness. The scenes where the two vastly different mothers get to know each other are pretty compelling, but both Kenrick and Lively are attractive and talented performers who really seemed to work well together.  What also works is that the two actresses are attractive in different ways. Kendrick has that cute girl next door quality that probably has led her to be typecast a bit while Lively has that sultry, dangerous vibe. I am not sure that Lively has played many bad girls in her career, but she seemed to jump right into this one pretty convincingly.

The real trouble begins when Emily asks Stephanie to pick her son up from school and keep him until she can get there.  Emily then does not turn up to collect her son and ends up missing for several days until a body is found in a lake.  Stephanie and Emily’s husband end up turning to each other for comfort, which is easy to predict where that leads.

Kendrick is once again playing the very familiar role of the naïve, somewhat clumsy yet charming cutie pie which is now getting a tad repetitive when I see her onscreen. She has some moments where her character displays some steel and courage, and she manages to be fairly convincing there too.  Kendrick is charming enough where I didn’t necessarily mind seeing this kind of character from her several times before. I am not sure that I have seen many films with Blake Lively, but this seemed a little different part for her, yet she seemed to play it with ease.  Although I have heard for years, that actors love a good villainous part.

There are quite a few interesting twists which was a bit hit-and-miss as far as believability. The movie is labeled as a dark comedy as well, so it’s hard to know how hard to judge on some of these turns.

Henry Golding is fine for the most part, but there was not much about his performance or character that I found all that interesting.  I am not sure that he is an actor with much range. I would probably have to see him in more films, which may happen since his other recent film, “Crazy Rich Asians” did so well in the box office in recent weeks.  I will try to reserve judgment until I see more of his work. At least, he doesn’t wreck this particular movie for me.

I didn’t think much of the strange committee of other moms, one of whom was a man, who seemed to be observing and making comments about what they were observing in this very strange tale unfolding before their eyes.  I am not sure they are in the novel but it feels like they were sort of added in this movie for extra humor.  Andrew Rannells plays the effeminate, probably gay, father who hangs out with the moms.  His background is never quite explained, which actually worked for me. He wasn’t that germane to the story until close to the very end.  Even then, his contribution was more of a lucky break than a real significant plot point.

One supporting character that I did rather like was this detective played by an actor with the rather complicated name of Bashir Salahuddin.  His Detective Summerville had a pretty refreshing attitude of jovial, friendly skepticism.  Even when he was not exactly sure of everything going on, he still seemed like he was going to if the writer had wanted to make him the real protagonist.

Much of the movie strained the suspension of disbelief a little much, but it still was rather enjoyable.  Kendrick and Lively seemed to spark off each other pretty well during their shared scenes.  It’s one of those movies that probably won’t be considered a giant among cinematic endeavors, but it’s a pretty engaging distraction.  Some of the plot twists weren’t all that predictable, but there were moments that seemed a little rushed and could have used a little more explanation.  Paul Feig once again presents a film that still kept me interested in spite of the occasional moments that caused some mild befuddlement.

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