2018, Movies

A Simple Favor (2018, Paul Feig)

This is a noirish murdery mystery/thriller with a heavy dose of comedy that feels relatively unique for these types of films. I was mostly with it until the very end and I do wonder how much of the fault for the ridiculous climax is on the novel versus on the screenplay.


Someone called this a “mommy noir” and I guess that’s what it is, albeit with jokes. From the opening there is some mild humour and there is the odd laugh out loud moment. As someone who has watched far too many noirs, murder mysteries, thrillers, crime dramas and hybrids of all these genres, one thing I can tell you is they rarely have a (deliberate) sense of humour. So that was extremely refreshing. And honestly, it feels so unique that, had the film been a little more assured from a directorial perspective and stuck its landing, I might be raving to you right now.

The plot is reasonably compelling and is on par with many of these stories in terms of its complexity. But the film does a good job of making us what to know what the solution to the mystery is and it makes it work, like so many of these films, until the solution emerges and everything breaks down.

And while the film progressed to its resolution, I mostly quite enjoyed it. I found the use of flashbacks to reveal the backstories kind of awkward. I get that they’re essential to the plot but I think that this could have been handled better. I do think that a director with a thriller background might have figured out a better way to do this. That being said, if this had been the only problem with the movie, I likely would have overlooked it.

Now, before I get to my big problem, can I just tell you that Salahuddin is fantastic in this and I hope I see him in more stuff. Anyway…

So my big problem is the pile of twists at the end and how they stop making sense. This is a regular problem with these films but this one gets super implausible in the climax, when two reveals don’t make any sense. First, Kendrick’s character’s big reveal negates the earlier reveal from Lively’s character. Given that the flashbacks have been taken as gospel prior to this moment, the film either tricks us or Kendrick’s reveal makes no sense. (They’re there or they’re not, is what I’m saying.) Second, if Lively’s reveal is taken as truth, like every other flashback (or, in this case, flash-to-the-side) then what happens to Lively’s character when she gets outside the house is impossible. These two issues are merely the crowning issues of Too Many Plot Twist syndrome which takes over the in the climax. If the film had landed better, I think I would have have quite liked it.

Here’s another minor nitpick about the climax: the news reports in the montage don’t mention Lively’s character’s original name. That’s just…completely unbelievable that they wouldn’t focus on the fact that she changed her name.

But I did mostly enjoy it. And I really do think that combining laughs with a plot like this is pretty unique and something that should be tried again.


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