By Ceara Kelly, Staff Writer
Photo by: ‘A Simple Favor’/IMDb
Finally, a movie that captures the true horrors of overenthusiastic PTA moms. A Simple Favor beautifully blends a humorous take on helicopter parents and eerie mystery. There’s not a moment that feels slow or visually dull, and even the most intense climax scenes will have you genuinely laughing with the movie. It manages to understand just how campy something like this is while still taking itself seriously, creating a wonderfully entertaining film.
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Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy vlogger, forms a disturbing obsession/friendship with Emily (Blake Lively) just before she goes missing. Like all nosey PTA moms, Stephanie can’t let things rest. With the help of her vlog fans, she goes out of her way to solve the mystery behind the disappearance, all while wearing a chipper smile and making sure her son’s class parties are the bee’s knees. The juxtaposition of the twists and turns of Emily vanishing into thin air with the petty dramas of the rest of the parents leaves the audience laughing despite the leads being held at gunpoint or worse. Honestly, the background parents are better than the main plot sometimes.
There’s also something incredibly refreshing about watching a woman who checks off every trope found in hopeless and one-dimensional love interests take control of her life, live through a horribly traumatic situation, become a hero and still remain sweet and bright-eyed. Although her innocence is sometimes presented as a joke, it’s never shown as a weakness. So often when a “silly housewife” faces a traumatic event and is thrust into the lead in movies, she becomes hardened. So, watching tiny Anna Kendrick aim a gun at someone’s head while in a fluffy cardigan and cat socks was beautiful.
There’s just one problem: the mystery was extremely convoluted. Everyone is an unreliable narrator, and nearly every mystery cliche is used, which leads to the timeline being extremely blurry. What felt like a day or two plot-wise could have been a month, and it’s never clarified. However, the dynamic and colorful cinematography is enough to distract from it. Just when you’re wondering how Stephanie has moved two times and completely unpacked in the span of what felt like a weekend, you’re fawning over elegant costumes and beautiful sets. The tone of the shots and the scenes themselves added to the self-reflective comedy. A dramatic, off-kilter angle will be used to deliver a ridiculous one-liner as if it’s some bad detective show, and then a plain head-on close-up will be used for the climax. Even the credits are engaging without the use of an after-credits scene.
There were, of course, smaller aspects adding to the wonder that is A Simple Favor. It has a surprisingly diverse cast without it feeling like Hollywood doing it to just pat themselves on the back. The mostly French soundtrack is perfect, drawing attention to the mood more than the lyrics. The only English song in the movie is used specifically for its lyrics and how they juxtapose the character singing it. Everything was calculated and it shows.
Mysteries often become overly grimdark and forget that people want to be entertained. A Simple Favor knows why people are seeing it and never fails to live up to expectations. The mystery manages to keep you on your toes despite being cliche and predictable simply by having everything else be so outside the norm. It was an entertaining twist on a classic genre and reminds you to never underestimate an overzealous parent.