Director Paul Feig's (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters) A Simple Favor doesn't know what it wants to be. Murder mystery? Psychological thriller? Black comedy? Twisted romance? All of the above? Unfortunately it doesn't tip in any one direction long enough to embrace any genre, so it falls short in all of them. But there is just enough black humor and movie star style to make watching A Simple Favor fun, even if you walk away at the end long having figured out the multiple twists and wishing it had been better.
Anna Kendrick is Stephanie, an overachieving single Mommy-vlogger who is swept up and away in the glam trails of Emily, the mother of one of her son's classmates. Stephanie is clearly awed by the trash-talking, hard-drinking, sophisticated Emily, who has an adoring, yet emasculated writer husband, Sean (Hollywood hunk-of-the-moment Henry Golding, of Crazy Rich Asians fame). And in case you have sniffed out the power dynamic in their relationship, check out Emily's man-styled wardrobe, complete with vests, watch fobs, and walking stick.
Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is on the outside looking in on glamorous Emily's (Blake Lively) life
Stephanie offers her super-mom services to pick up Emily's kid after school when she is too busy at work, and Emily jumps at the offer - Stephanie doesn't seem to realize or remember the gossip that Emily has long been in search of a nanny and she just may have auditioned for the unpaid position. The two women bond over copious martinis and (mostly Stephanie's) self-revelations. But before you can say "BFF," Emily has disappeared and Stephanie is unwisely yapping about her diappearance on her vlog and to the police.
Playdates, martinis, and secrets
If A Simple Favor had veered more in the direction of black humor than a classic mystery like Diabolique, which it actually meta-references during the film, it might have been great. There are some fun glints of humor throughout, when Stephanie goes into Nancy Drew mode and interviews a delightfully sozzled Jean Smart, snotty fashion designer Rupert Friend, and angry painter Linda Cardellini. But the lack of cohesive direction is revealed and underlined in two features in the Blu-ray extras - Paul Feig actually filmed a Bollywood flash mob dance sequence, but thankfully never inserted it into the film. Talk about throwing in everything and the kitchen sink. Still, viewers should enjoy the on-screen chemistry of the two leading ladies. That's where the real story seems to be.
Extras on the Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital versions include: Audio Commentaries with the Cast and Crew, Featurettes, Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes, and the aforementioned Flash Mob sequence. A Simple Favor has a running time of 117 minutes and is rated R for sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nude images, drug use, and violence. Subtitles are in Spanish and English SDH. The Blu-ray format is 1080p High Defintion 16x9 2.00:1 Presentation, with English 7.1 Dolby Audio with Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Audio English Descriptive Audio. The DVD format is 16x9 2.00:1 Presentation, with English 7.1 Dolby Audio with Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Audio English Descriptive Audio.
A Simple Favor arrives on Digital December 11 and on 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), DVD, and On Demand December 18