‘A Simple Favor,’ a complicated movie
Cameron Sumner | Wednesday, October 3, 2018
“Was that supposed to be a comedy?” my friend Molly mused as we walked out of the movie theater last week. We had just seen “A Simple Favor,” the new movie directed by Paul Feig. The film, starring Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick, and Harry Golding (recent star of “Crazy Rich Asians”), left us somewhat perplexed. With young sons in the same class, Lively and Kendrick’s characters befriend each other, and drama ensues. The movie’s genre, unnamable. Its characters, complex. Yet, although my friends and I were quite confused by what we watched, we definitely agreed we liked it, once we reflected on the film’s storyline and setting.
To begin, the storyline is both enthralling and loaded. By this, I mean that while the storyline was extremely interesting and exciting, certain details or subplots might leave audiences wondering why they I was also left wondering why they were included. The two main characters, Stephanie (Kendrick) and Emily (Lively), have such loaded, heavy pasts and viewers learned, possibly, more than we needed to. This is also applies to Emily’s husband in the movie, Sean (Golding). However, an interesting part of these characters and their questionable pasts is that we aren’t allowed to fully pick sides when things go downhill. The three have dark parts to them, yet they also have redeeming qualities. Viewers are invited to pity them yet recognize the wrongs they have done. Really, the complexity of the characters mimics the complicated quality of the plot itself.
Another point on the storyline is that it is way more than just a drama about a disappearance, which the trailer might lead you to believe. The film also dealt with similar conflicts of murder, fraud and betrayal. Throughout the film humor is quite abundant, especially with reactive remarks by Kendrick’s Stephanie. In a way, all of these angles were overwhelming to me as a viewer. They’re probably part of the reason, too, why my friends and I wondered whether we could deem the film a comedy. By the end, the drama was so absurd, and so many twists and turns had been made. When the “bad guy’s” fate is finally sealed in a humorous way, it finishes the film in a lighter manner than expected.
The setting, though never truly named, was said to be outside of “the city,” which grants the movie an air of suburbia. The generic, vanilla life of Stephanie, who runs a cooking vlog website, contrasts fabulously with the mystery of Emily’s life. Grouping costuming with setting, too, the preppy, childlike clothing worn by Stephanie is vastly different than the menswear-inspired, attention-calling suits of Emily’s. Furthermore, on one hand, Stephanie lives in a modest, homey Cape Cod while, on the other, Emily’s crib is sleek, modern, enviable. These juxtapositions also add to the absurd and comic nature of the film while showing how unlikely a pair Stephanie and Emily are.
All in all, I enjoyed the film. I caution readers, though, who think this is a classic chick flick. That, it is not. However, if you’re up for a bit of a mind game, then “A Simple Favor” is for you.