By CELIA BROCKER
A Simple Favor is a mystery thriller directed by Paul Feig, based on a novel by the same name by Darcey Bell. The story follows Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a preppy, single parent who runs a vlog for moms. After her new friend Emily (Blake Lively) disappears, Stephanie begins a one woman quest to find answers and discovers the dark secrets of Emily’s past.
This movie could have been entertaining if it wasn’t so predictable. A Simple Favor is the kind of movie that reveals the whole movie in a two-minute trailer. The relationships that develop in the movie surprise absolutely no one and every new secret Stephanie discovers about Emily is something the audience has likely already guessed. Even the ending — which is supposed to be the best part of every story — is boring. The ending wraps the story up with a nice bow in an attempt to please the audience, but what would’ve been really satisfying, would’ve been shocking the audience and abandoning the happy ending cliche A Simple Favor tries to sell.
The other big issue with A Simple Favor is the characters, who are interesting but unlikeable. Nothing against the actors; they did an excellent job. But a movie is supposed to have one character the audience can root for so they’ll feel like they have stakes to lose, which keeps them engaged. But if the characters are awful, the audience won’t care what happens to them.
The audience is supposed to sympathize with dorky Stephanie, but nearly everything that comes out of her mouth makes the audience cringe. The movie also tries to sell Stephanie as a sweet, innocent young woman but fails on that front. Why should the audience root for Stephanie when the role she plays in Emily’s family is actually kind of creepy? And the movie makes it clear that this is not the first time Stephanie has been inappropriately involved with people close to her.
Emily’s character is also contradictory. She is presented as enigmatic woman who fascinates those around her, but is also shown to annoy them. Even her husband (Henry Golding) expresses his impatience towards his wife’s behavior and seems almost relieved when he thinks she’s gone for good. Which begs the question; if he’s truly that frustrated with his wife, what makes him stay with her for all that time? It’s probably his lack of a spine, which is evident when he lets first Emily then Stephanie take control of his life. While his character is meant to be secondary to the two leads, he adds nothing to the plot aside from being a toy passed between Emily and Stephanie.
The thriller genre of film has been dominated by men for decades, so it’s refreshing to see a movie where the women run the show. But if all the industry can offer is a film with a basic plot and annoying characters, it seriously needs to step up its game. A Simple Favor isn’t a bad film, but it could’ve been a lot better.