Dark comedy is a unique brand of humor that navigates a tight balance between compelling noir and biting humor. Finding that sweet spot in creating material that mocks the taboo while still being serious is as difficult as it gets and its a reason that many dark comedies exist, but only a few really succeed.
A Simple Favor is thus fortunate to find itself in the category of dark comedy success stories; while it’s not in the same league as classics like Fargo, Pulp Fiction and even American Psycho, A Simple Favor offers an amusingly twisted good time that will surely make for an enjoyable outing.
When spunky but insecure single mom Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) befriends the confident, sophisticated and crude Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), motivations and backgrounds are immediately questioned. How could these totally different people become friends? But when Emily mysteriously disappears, the only person who can begin to discover the truth is the ever resourceful Stephanie.
Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Ghostbusters ) and based on the 2017 novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, A Simple Favor like the most successful black comedies works because of its clever satire and charming lead performances. In mixing together humor with a murder mystery stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively bring to the screen intriguing personalities that compliment the amusing and speculative story. As we laugh, question and feel uncertain of motives, the film continues to hold our attention and entertain.
Melding mature subject matter and comedy is tricky, and indeed at times in the movie it is inconsistent; the film becomes noticeably more serious towards the end before its conclusion resorts to out of place slapstick material. Still, for the most part, Feig makes it work and the dynamic leads definitely deliver.
Anna Kendrick is a delight as the annoyingly lovable Stephanie, who quickly shows herself to be an effective amateur sleuth, while Blake Lively really shines as the volatile and unpredictable Emily. Exuding confidence, sexiness and a captivating air of mystery her Emily is a fascinating personification that keeps us guessing until the very end.
Though not hysterically funny or overly thought-provoking, A Simple Favor has fun with its premise and provides just enough guesswork and twists to keep us invested. Many other dark comedies however often provide subtle commentaries on the nature of the criminal ( Fargo’s complex characters all have their own selfish motivations for instance), and while it is somewhat explored here it never quite reaches the levels of sophistication of the Coen Brothers or Quentin Tarantino.
But ultimately this is a fun escapist work of cinema, that succeeds in creating laughter, mystery, and intrigue; it’s a tough task indeed to create humor from what should be humorless but with its commendable cast and alluring narrative A Simple Favor earns its place in the pantheon of good black comedies. It is doubtful that it will be remembered in the long run like some of the other heavyweights previously mentioned, but its ability to bring entertainment to the theatre is more than enough to recommend it.
Review: A Simple Favor
A Simple Favor is good escapist cinema which, while not groundbreaking, succeeds on the back of its leading stars