Northern Iowan

‘A Simple Favor’ is simply average

Anna+Kendrick+and+Blake+Lively+star+in+%22A+Simple+Favor%2C%22+directed+by+Paul+Feig.+The+film+was+released+on+Sept.+14+and+had+a+budget+of+20+million+dollars.+Critics+on+Rotten+Tomatoes+gave+the+film+an+84%25+rating.
Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively star in

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively star in "A Simple Favor," directed by Paul Feig. The film was released on Sept. 14 and had a budget of 20 million dollars. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 84% rating.

TNS

TNS

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively star in "A Simple Favor," directed by Paul Feig. The film was released on Sept. 14 and had a budget of 20 million dollars. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an 84% rating.

HUNTER FRIESEN, Film Critic

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Stephanie Smothers is a young woman who absolutely loves her job as a single mother of her young son. Her life consists of caring for him, volunteering at school and running a popular parenting vlog.

At school, she meets Emily Nelson, the mother of her son’s best friend. Emily works a high-end job in the city and is glamorous, mysterious and powerful: everything Stephanie isn’t.

The two become unlikely best friends — or so Stephanie thinks. One day, she gets a call from Emily, asking for “a simple favor.” The favor quickly gets out of hand, flipping Stephanie’s clean life upside down. A twisted game quickly starts to take shape, one that threatens to uncover layers of hidden secrets and dark desires.

Directing: 3/5

“A Simple Favor” comes as the first drama for director Paul Feig, best known for comedies such as “Spy” and the 2016 version of “Ghostbusters.”

Feig directs the first act impeccably. He sets up the plot with confidence by introducing us to the main characters, presenting their personalities and background but not in their entirety. Some details are intentionally omitted in order to build suspense. It works, keeping us on the edge of our seats.

Unfortunately, the next two acts don’t go as well. Feig starts to lose control over his film and things get messy. The pacing slows way down, and important plot points are thrown at us left and right until we can’t keep things straight.

Feig also faces minor problems with the overall tone. The film doesn’t want to be taken too seriously as it mixes elements of both drama and comedy; however, the flipping between tones doesn’t feel as natural as it should. The third act especially suffers from this, as every plot detail is awkwardly mashed together in an overly comedic way that just feels off.

Writing: 3/5

Adapted from the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, the writing for “A Simple Favor” fares well overall albeit with some bumps along the way.

The first act introduces a strong premise with interesting characters. The conversations between Stephanie and Emily are whip-smart as each character tries to understand the other.

Similar to the directing, the writing for the next two acts doesn’t sustain the same level of mystery as the first. Things start to get a little too preposterous too quickly. Characters lose their edge and become carbon copies of what we’ve seen before in other films.

The latter half of the film also contains an overabundance of clichés that undermine all the good material that had been set up in the beginning. None of them will be mentioned for the sake of spoilers, but it’s underwhelming and comes off as predictable and disappointing.

Acting: 3/5

Anna Kendrick does pretty solid work as Stephanie Smothers. She plays the “young mom” type quite well and provides a lot of good material for the comedic bits. Her one struggle is that when the film starts to grow darker, she’s not entirely believable as a character with a bad side.

Blake Lively’s portrayal of Emily Nelson shares the same problem as Kendrick. Lively excels early on as her confidence brings an aura of mystery to her character. By the film’s end, however, she loses what made her so good and her performance becomes more one-note.

Fresh from his breakout role as Nick Young in “Crazy Rich Asians,” Henry Golding stars as Sean Townsend, Emily’s husband. Golding delivers the same charm from his previous role, but this time with more edge to it. He fares all right but is constantly overshadowed by the two leading ladies.

Overall: 3/5

“A Simple Favor” can be loosely branded as a campier and lower quality version of “Gone Girl.” It contains one of the best opening acts of the year, but also some of the biggest mistakes and wasted potential. Overall, “A Simple Favor” is an average film, but serves up enough mystery and thrills to warrant a viewing.

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‘A Simple Favor’ is simply average