Suburban thriller A Simple Favour is all neo and no noir

by James Robins / 25 September, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - A Simple Favour movie review

Director Paul Feig's A Simple Favour is a thriller that's undercut by comedy.

Having been disturbed by Gone Girl and doused in damp tears by The Girl on the Train, we now have A Simple Favour, directed by Paul Feig, the latest in a line of female-led domestic mystery thrillers adapted from popular novels.

In it, Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie, a prim, chirpy solo mother who becomes friends with her total opposite: a scabrous and delightfully cynical woman named Emily, clad in sharply tailored three-pieces and played by radiance herself, Blake Lively.

They share chilled martinis by the gallon and spill secrets to each other. Kendrick’s fish-out-of-water routine is a perfect foil for Lively’s pitch-black humour. Steadily, their contrasting personalities find common ground. Stephanie is a widow, while Emily wishes she could be rid of her deadbeat writer husband (a suave but instantly suspicious Henry Golding). And then Emily goes missing, and a body with her DNA is found at the bottom of a lake.

Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters) is a pretty good comedy director. In his helming a thriller, however, the two genres fight for balance and any intrigue comes off second best.

A Simple Favour trundles steadily through a plague of detective clichés. Each turn and revelation takes this into more outlandish territory, and much of it feels unearned. Murder in suburbia has been done before, and despite such cult classics as Gaslight and Les Diaboliques being name-checked, this is all neo and no noir.

Video: Roadshow Films

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★★

This article was first published in the September 29, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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