REVIEW: A Simple Favor

A simple watch – you would think.

Caring mother and dedicated vlogger, Stephanie, befriends the sophisticated Emily, who’s sudden disappearance causes a stir in their quaint neighbourhood.

Now I don’t want to tiptoe around the thoughts and feelings I have towards A Simple Favor for too long. I just want to get everything out in the open immediately. I want to lay my cards on the table and show you all exactly how I feel about this movie, and guess what, all my cards are Jokers, because A Simple Favor is one of the biggest jokes I have seen at the cinema so far in 2018.

I loathed this movie – with a passion. To give you a quick rundown, for starters, I am not at all fond of director Paul Feig’s filmography. Now I may have not ever seen the man’s earlier work prior to Bridesmaids and I want people to know I have nothing whatsoever against the guy as a person – I just really harbour a passionate annoyance with his movies. Apart from Bridesmaids, for which I think is fine and nothing more than that, Feig’s follow up work including The Heat, Spy and   Ghostbusters are some of the blandest, most annoying and aggravating comedies I have come across in recent memory. Spy, in particular, has grinded my gears ever since I had to sit through it in cinemas back in 2015. And yes, I know I am in the minority here and I know I have an unpopular opinion concerning Feig’s work, however, I could not give a rat’s a**.
(Iovino 2018)

I was partly excited for A Simple Favor because I wanted to see what Feig could do when not bound to a Melissa McCarthy-centric comedy. I truly wanted to know if the filmmaker could actually create a suspenseful and entertaining thriller from the intriguing material that was A Simple Favor with talent like Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively also operating behind it… yet, I cannot believe how wrong I was to even give this movie a fighting chance before seeing it. I should have known better…

Like a chef trying to ambitiously serve up the most exquisite and fancy dessert possible to man, you can clearly see in this film that Feig had a vision and I applaud him for that. Yet, the way he executed it was as ham-fisted and shoddy as all his previous efforts. What I think Feig was trying to do with A Simple Favor was replicate the flavours of what made David Fincher’s Gone Girl so damn good whilst also trying to lace this visibly delectable dessert with his own secret Fieg-ie ingredient of female branded comedy. And so what A Simple Favor amounted to was a movie that had no clue what it was or what it wanted to be. It’s under my belief that A Simple Favor was a mess through and through for which reminded of a Desperate Housewives episode stretched into theatrical length.

So yes, I would accept that maybe Fieg was trying to overall go for a soap opera-like feel with the cheesy storytelling and a heightened scandalised narrative to really puff up his already fluffy and airy dessert. Yet this dessert (let’s say its cake) may look pretty and inviting – and how could it not when Kendrick and Lively are two of Hollywood’s most gorgeous and alluring stars – but as soon as you cut into it with your spoon, my friend, it deflates immediately. You know why? Because there is nothing beneath the surface of this movie – NOTHING.

A Simple Favour is immensely shallow. Every character is horrible – and again, I GET IT. The point probably was to make everyone in this movie unlikable for some thematic reason or whatever. Though when your narrative is something so basic and your movie is shot without any real talent or art, why should anyone bother to truly uncover the real reason why certain characters act the way they do? I do not like comparing movies, but it’s almost like A Simple Favour invites you to draw comparisons with the superior Gone Girl. The character of Lively’s Emily versus the character of Rosamund Pike’s Amy could not be more similar on paper, though in execution, only Amy really stands out as a threatening, psychotic fake housewife who clearly hates her husband and manipulates the people around her. Emily, meanwhile, is like Amy-lite. Nothing she does raises any tension and she only appears psychotic and manipulative because the narrative leans on her character embodying such attributes. Lively’s performance never portrays Emily’s character to the fullest as her appearance is either just bitchy, cruel or cheesily over-the-top.

I felt Anna Kendrick was fine and I have nothing too bad to say about her, but Henry Golding, fresh off the amazing Crazy Rich Asians, was just so cliché and ultimately felt like a corrupt stand-in Prince Charming. Linda Cardellini also made an appearance in this movie as a character who should have just been credited as “Woman Who Likes Stabbing Tables with Knives”… you’ll know it when you see it. And the child acting – eww, just eww.

Now, what I have noticed is how much critics and people alike appear to be raving about this movie (as they did with Spy) and honestly, I wish I was on the same page. Jumping back to the cake metaphor, maybe I was cut off a bad slice of A Simple Favor. Maybe I just got the cut with no shard of chocolate on top. Maybe my slice of cake just fell over and everyone else’s stayed upright… but nah, I hardly doubt that. The world is insane, and me? Well I am like Heath Ledger’s Joker – I see things very clearly.

I can see how convoluted and shaky this storyline is. I can see how unstructured and poorly paced this narrative is. I can see that Paul Feig had no idea how to make a thriller and after realising he couldn’t, he just diverted into trying to make another comedy – and the comedy doesn’t even work! This movie has no idea what it wants to be! It tries to be a thriller, but cannot even edit itself to be 1% thrilling. It tries to be funny, but the tone is all over the shop and makes certain jokes feel so out of place. It tries to be sexy and… well, actually I don’t have a huge problem with that last point.

A Simple Favor is just a mess that stumbles around, headless, trying to latch onto whatever it can to make itself likeable. Yet… this movie seemingly has it fans. So, I don’t know, maybe it’s doing something right. I mean, it is competently made. I have no huge problems with the production, for example the costume and set design all looked really good… but still, like I said: the dessert may look pretty and inviting but it’s ultimately hollow.

The plot twists don’t work because the editing fails at making any moment feel shocking. The ending is an abomination of a sequence, as the climax just jumps to all kinds of lunacy. I cannot fathom how much I dislike this movie and, furthermore, cannot understand why people in their right mind actually enjoyed this. I just can’t.

I was hoping for a Gone Girl but I got another Girl On the Train. I’m sorry if you honestly liked this, but yeah, I do not by any stretch recommend A Simple Favor, and next time Feig makes another film, well, I might just decide to not see it. Simple. As. That.

A Simple Favor, without a doubt in my mind, belongs in the… THEATRE OF DOOM.


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