A Simple Favour
- James Mottram
- 17 September 2018
Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively excel in Paul Feig's sly black comedy
In an era when Hollywood is being shamed into reconsidering the way it portrays women, the man behind Bridesmaids, Spy and the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, Paul Feig, is one director who can hold his head up high. His latest effort, based on the novel by Darcey Bell, is another female-driven tale, albeit with a comic sensibility that skews darker than his usual more broadly pitched laughs. It also boasts two fantastic roles for his stars: Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively.
At the heart of this small-town mystery, Kendrick plays Stephanie, a mild-mannered single mother who hosts her own 'mommy vlog'. As the film opens, she announces to her followers that her friend Emily (Lively) has disappeared. Rewinding, Feig shows how Emily, a PR director for a fashion house whose boy Nicky (Ian Ho) attends the same school as Stephanie's son Miles (Joshua Satine), came to befriend Stephanie. While Stephanie is frequently saying sorry for just about anything she does, Emily speaks freely (and with a sharp, sweary tongue); soon enough, she's encouraging her new friend to find her inner devil.
What follows is a twisty tale of murder, scheming and scams where just about everybody has a skeleton rattling in their closet. Cannily adapted by Jessica Sharzer (Nerve), it's the sort of sly black comedy that you could've seen appealing to Billy Wilder back in the day, while Hitchcock's shadow also looms large.
Kendrick and Lively are both excellent, but Feig isn't so blinkered as to forget the male characters. Newcomer Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) impresses as Emily's husband Sean, Rupert Friend is hilarious as Emily's boss – Tom Ford-wannabe Dennis Nylon – and Girls star Andrew Rannells makes a memorable appearance as a fellow parent. It all adds up to a delicious cocktail of a film that teeters on the edge of outrageousness.
General release from Fri 21 Sep.