PLOT A mommy vlogger seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend's sudden disappearance.
CAST Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding
RATED R (sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nude images, drug use and violence)
BOTTOM LINE Bright and bracing murder mystery: think "Gone Girl" meets "The Stepford Wives"
Comedy director Paul Feig tries a thriller on for size with the juicy “A Simple Favor,” a suburban Connecticut murder mystery that’s “Gone Girl” meets “The Stepford Wives.” Based on the novel by Darcey Bell, written by Jessica Sharzer, the consciously campy “A Simple Favor” is as bright and bracing as an ice cold gin martini with a lemon twist, and just as satisfying.
Anna Kendrick stars as Stephanie, a mommy vlogger raising her son, Miles (Joshua Satine), on her own after her husband’s tragic death in a car accident. Shunned by the other parents (a gloriously catty trio played by Andrew Rannells, Aparna Nancherla and Kelly McCormack), she takes up with the glamorous, elusive and mysterious Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), mostly because their kids want a play date. Thirsty for attention, she agrees to slurp down afternoon martinis.
As the sexy, stylish Emily, Lively is at her best. The role offers her a chance to try on a deliciously naughty performance while playing on her flair for fashion. Decked from head to toe in three-piece suits, Emily cuts a seductive and serpentine figure. She snares Stephanie into her web the same way she snagged her husband, the dashing novelist Sean (Henry Golding), with a potent mixture of sensuality and secrets.
Kendrick’s shtick — her self-consciously dorky rapid-fire delivery — has started to wear thin, but in “A Simple Favor” it suits her character perfectly, as the ever-chipper can-do Stephanie, who has a penchant for Peter Pan collars and pom-poms. When Emily goes missing, leaving her son Nicky in the care of Stephanie, her new best friend of a few weeks, she pours all her energy into caring for Emily’s family and searching for her missing friend. When it comes to solving mysteries, leave it to a mom. Stephanie is the ultimate über-organized Nosy Nellie perfect for the job.
"A Simple Favor” twists and turns like a flag whipping in the wind, and by the end, it teeters on the brink of total incomprehensibility while plunging into full ridiculousness. But that’s exactly what you want for this brand of soapy, stylized and sexy female-driven thriller. It’s about as deep as a champagne coupe, but the performers, slick execution and pop-art style make it a delightfully fun and kitschy ride.