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A Simple Favour

The suave female-led noir that I didn’t know I needed.

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Adapted from Darcy Bell’s novel and directed by Paul Feig, A Simple Favour is the suave female-led noir that I didn’t know I needed. Released in September of last year, the mystery thriller is so saturated with twists and turns, it’s almost impossible to go into the plot without spoilers, following the opening 20 minutes. So, here’s what I can say: 60s French pop, martinis, and, you know, a casual unexplained disappearance...

Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie Smothers, an awkward, annoyingly overbearing mum with an amusingly fitting name and a passion for cooking and vlogging. Doesn’t really seem like the basis for a thriller, but bear with it. Performing alongside Kendrick, under Feig’s direction, Blake Lively intertwines delightfully dark humour with a refreshingly blunt approach to parenthood to form Stephanie’s antithesis, Emily. She’s everything a woman like Stephanie aspires to be: a sophisticated, sleek and sexy fashion PR executive, with a writer-husband, who she massively outperforms.

After their children insist on a playdate at Emily’s house, Stephanie is introduced to a world where the “fucked up female habit” of apologising is banned, consisting of daytime drinking, sexual fluidity, female domination and nude paintings. But as their tenuous friendship begins to blossom over cocktails and shared confidences, Kendrick illustrates how her uptight, reserved character isn’t really as polished up as audiences are first led to believe.

Things really start to get puzzling when Emily asks Stephanie for a simple favour: to pick up her son from school, leaving one overarching question to burn to the surface - what happened to Emily? This is left up to Stephanie to figure out, assisted with a passive aggressive use of her blog and loaded on Emily’s radical enlightenment. Audiences watch as Kendrick’s character transforms from an irritating do-gooder with an ‘oopsie jar’ to the unexpected badass Emily created in her, always being two steps ahead of the game (ironically at Emily’s expense). One of the film’s most successful elements has to be its ability to keep audiences on their feet throughout, whilst trying to figure out who these two women really are, with the helpful scattering of flashbacks.

Despite playing bitter opposites, Kendrick and Lively work brilliantly as a duo; their naturally dry, deadpan styles of humour bounce off of each other hilariously. Their chemistry is undeniable and plays to the advantage of the film, creating some seemingly effortless scenes (as well as one of 2018’s best on-screen kisses).

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