Director Paul Feig is back after hits like Bridesmaids and Spy. Known for his comedies, this is his first attempt at a Thriller. Tragically, his attempts at ditching comedy aren’t entirely successful, and instead this film becomes a hybrid of the two where either the jokes come in the way of the suspenseful mystery, or vice versa.
To even begin explaining the plot would be to tread dangerously close to spoiler territory. What can be said is that Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie Smothers, a vlogger Mum, who befriends Emily Nelson, a business woman played by Blake Lively. One day, Emily asks Stephanie for “A Simple Favour” (roll credits) to pick her son up from school, and then she promptly disappears without a trace. Though the two leads are great, the choice of Anna Kendrick to play a ‘yummy mummy’ felt jarring and her role feels very unconvincing (though she does give a great performance). Blake Lively however is fantastically well cast, and it is equally exciting to see Henry Golding pop up again after Crazy Rich Asians, in another strong role that promises he is a rising star who will shine for a long time.
Feig has said in interviews he wanted this to be a Hitchcockian-style thriller, where fun could be had while the mystery unfolded. The thing to say is that though clear similarities appear, from the opening titles to the story themes, it is in no way in the same league. Unfortunately, Feig has tried too much to have comedy and thriller blend but the two don’t seem to work that well together. All attempts at suspense, particularly in the final act, are broken up by stupid slapstick humour and this ruined the enjoyment of the film for me. This film felt like a failed attempt to make Gone Girl funny, and the story comparisons are countless. Unfortunately, to even attempt to make a mystery film so similar to David Fincher’s masterpiece, and within a few years, is futile and unfortunately it hugely pales in comparison.
However, to its credit the film is wonderfully suave, much like the director himself. He is known as one of the best dressed directors in Hollywood, and clearly he took that style into the film. The film is classy, the characters are well dressed, and some of the French music choices show a definite rise to a higher level of intelligence. But it is disappointing that a film with SUCH a strong opening half should be so weak in the second half. The whole setting up of the mystery is superb, and the twist after twist it hits you with are astounding. Unfortunately, it clearly backed itself into a corner from which it couldn’t escape and the resolving of the story felt confusing, laboured and ultimately underwhelming.
Overall this film is a must watch for the first half. If you left then, you would leave with a feeling of such suspense and excitement that it perhaps could rival Hitchcock. However, watching the second half will ruin this enjoyment, prove Hitchcock is unrivaled as the master of suspense, and make you leave the cinema feeling flat.
To give you an idea about my score, while thinking about the star rating during the film, I began considering a nine, degraded to an eight, and continued degrading. It’s such a shame the film slowly shot itself in the foot in such a dramatic way.