Best known for his female-led comedies like Bridesmaids, Spy and the internet’s favourite Ghostbusters remake, Paul Feig has decided to stretch his genre chops by adapting Darcy Bell’s thriller novel A Simple Favour. It sees über-wholesome, vlogging supermom Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) cross paths with Emily, a stylish, martini-swigging femme fatale (Blake Lively). The polar-opposite caricatures awkwardly bond and one day comes the titular favour: Emily needs Stephanie to pick up her child after school as she’s swamped at work. The next thing you know, Emily disappears without a trace…
What starts as a promising, Hitchcock-meets-Clouzot thriller (Les Diaboliques is even name-checked in a jarring line of dialogue) with a sprinkling of humour never truly finds its groove; it doesn’t convincingly mesh its comedy leanings with the delicious darkness at the heart of the story and instead goes full Nancy Drew. Not that there’s anything wrong with a good Nancy Drew mystery, but A Simple Favor needed a far steadier hand behind the camera in terms of thriller genre sensitivities and a defter tonal touch when it came to the screenplay. You end up with something that’s neither quotable comedy nor captivating noir, and even if the central performances compensate for some uneven tonal shifts, the casting coup can’t save the bargain-bin Gone Girl third act. Numerous unruly and increasingly naff twists accumulate and stumble towards an asinine denouement, with a groan-inducing punchline from a peripheral character that nearly sinks the entire film. Still, tonal hodgepodge though it may be, A Simple Favour is serviceably entertaining; you’ll just wish that Lively and Kendrick were blessed with a less flimsy plot, as their interplay deserved a far stronger vehicle.
A Simple Favor | Directed by Paul Feig (US, 2018), with Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding. Starts November 8
Check our OV search engine for showtimes.