In A Simple Favor, seemingly perfect Mum, Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) forms an unlikely friendship with the free-spirited and unpredictable Emily (Blake Lively). When Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son from school because she is caught up at work, Stephanie happily agrees to perform that simple favour but Emily then goes missing…
Director Paul Feig has made his name with a series of mostly excellent comedies, such as Bridesmaids, The Heat and Spy, and this has been billed as his dramatic debut. However, there a lot of moments of sharp humour that help to give the film it’s curious tone. It’s a real mishmash of suspenseful mystery, comedy and drama that could have fallen on its face but it really worked for me. There are some exceptions – Stephanie’s odd back story is presumably there to help explain why Emily warms to her but I found it unnecessary and not at all fitting with her character otherwise
As the story spins off in increasingly wild directions, though, the performances of Lively and especially Kendrick keep it fully on track.
A missing woman is also the centre if the story of Searching. Margot Kim (Michelle La) is apparently a normal teenage girl with a good relationship with her Dad, David (John Cho) that helped her cope with her mum’s death. When she mysteriously disappears after study group one evening, David teams up with Detective Vick (Debra Messing) to try to find her.
This film has gained notoriety by the fact that the events take place on a series of computer screens via the use of Skype, Internet sites and surveillance/CCTV cameras. It is not a totally new idea but it works much better than, for example, in the horror film Unfriended a couple of years ago. As an avowed non-user of social media, I feared I would find it gimmicky and annoying, but that wasn’t the case. The story unfolded at a good pace, and there were even opportunities to critique how people behave in this digital age.
I imagine reaction to the last 15 minutes of the film will be mixed. I thought things were tied up a little too easily but I did like the main twist in the tale.
A Simple Favor: 8 out of 10
Searching: 7 out of 10