Starring: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Aparna Nancherla, Kelly McCormack
Director: Paul Feig
Running Time: 117 Minutes
Rating: R for Aggressive Nude Paintings, Plenty of Oopsie Words, a Few Gunshots, and a Little Bit of Skinny Dipping
Release Date: September 14, 2018
What if the most super-prepared overachieving mom started hanging out with the scariest, most workaholic mom who never shows up to any classroom activities? As Andrew Rannells, the ringleader of A Simple Favor‘s Greek chorus of catty parents puts it, she’s going to eat her alive. But in fact prudish mommy blogger Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) and altogether aggressive fashion P.R. exec Emily Nelson (Blake Lively) become fast friends. They may be the oddest of odd couples, but their chemistry is sparkling and intense. Emily carelessly swears (quite hilariously) in front of her young son and swills afternoon martinis, which is miles beyond any life Stephanie has ever lived. But her unapologetic nature is intoxicating, and Stephanie is happy to latch onto the rare opportunity of discovering true friendship in adulthood.
Stephanie and Emily drinking away the afternoons could be an excellent formula for a twisted sitcom. But Emily, naturally enough, has her secrets, and this story is about her disappearance, and Stephanie grappling with how there is so much she doesn’t know about her friend and how she was always profoundly mysterious for as long as she’s known her. The black comedy of the first half gradually fades away, with Stephanie’s amateur sleuthing signaling a turn into high camp as she starts uncovering some key information.
It all culminates in Stephanie, Emily, and Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) overdramatically play-acting the roles in the ridiculously over-the-top tale of intrigue that they are actually living. The switch between tones is such a hard swerve and a little disorienting. But I am willing to forgive that and call A Simple Favor a rousing success because Kendrick, Lively, and director Paul Feig are so adept at handling both tones, and because there are some genuine lessons about how to be a good, attentive parent in there. That level of grounding is what makes a domestic fantasy like this endure.
A Simple Favor is Recommended If You Like: Gone Girl, Mommy blogs and vlogs, Making fun of mommy blogs and vlogs, Yé-yé music
Grade: 4 out of 5 Real Martinis