A Simple Favour is a pacey and amusing cocktail of feminist comedy and contemporary film noir with a touch of Gallic froth in its liberal use of classic French pop songs on the soundtrack, for which there appears to be no particular reason apart from contributing to the overall mood of fun mixed with mystery.
Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie, a suburban single mum, eager as a puppy to volunteer for everything at her son’s school – with the result that she is friendless. She also finds time to run a vlog from her kitchen, sharing mumsy tips and recipes with her handful of followers. Stephanie’s life takes a turn for the better, when she meets fellow mum Emily (Blake Lively), who is her antithesis. Emily is sophisticated and elegant with an alarmingly casual attitude to child rearing, which contrasts with Stephanie’s micro management approach and a high powered job in “the city” (New York that is). So Stephanie can’t believe her luck when Emily wants to be her best friend.
They bond over cocktails in Emily’s super cool, glass walled home and share their most intimate secrets. Well, Stephanie does anyway. She has fallen big time. There’s even a hint of lesbianism in their relationship. Then one day Emily asks her for that simple favour. Could Stephanie pick up her little boy from school and look after him for a few hours. No problem. Not, that is, until Emily fails to come and collect him. She has, it turns out, disappeared into thin air.
Stephanie then realises how little she actually knows about her friend. Neither it appears does Emily’s very attractive husband Sean, played by British-Malaysian Henry Golding – an actor to watch. Henry is a bit of mystery man too. Has Emily walked out on her marriage? Or has she been murdered and if so, by whom? The ever eager Stephanie now turns detective, getting up to all sorts of larks she never would have thought she would, including with Sean and her daily reports on her vlog about her sleuthing activities up her viewing figures big time.
The early scenes between the two women are a delight, to the extent that one feels a distinct sense of disappointment when Lively, who has a touch of the young Vanessa Redgrave about her, disappears from the story for so long. Kendrick however manages to make the potentially irritating Stephanie likeable and to hold our interest in a plot that is full of unexpected twists, as it balances cleverly on its many stools without falling between any of them.
Paul Feig, who also directed Bridesmaids, The Heat and the feminist Ghostbusters would appear to enjoy working on female led movies, and though the film never bangs on about it, there’s a bit of a feminist message about attitudes to women implicit in this, which you can enjoy if you care to look for it.