Review: Lively and Kendrick shine as a dynamic duo in ‘A Simple Favor’

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By Brooke Hill | News Editor

Gossip Girl meets Pitch Perfect when Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick star in Paul Feig’s “A Simple Favor,” based on the Darcey Bell novel. The movie is a mashup of comedy and thriller, and it never really quits being funny — even during scenes that should be terrifying.

Kendrick plays Stephanie Smothers, a mommy vlogger who makes videos on everything from friendship bracelets to brownie recipes. She’s the epitome of a helicopter parent, volunteering for every possible event at her son Nicky’s school, shopping at Target and explaining her ‘oopsy’ jar fund for cuss words.

Lively plays the glamorous diva Emily Nelson — and seriously, it’s Blake Lively, so you’ll spend the whole movie wondering how one person could possibly be so stunning. Compared to Stephanie, Emily is the “bad parent,” jokingly asking if Stephanie’s son drinks before inviting her over for drinks after meeting while picking their kids up from school.

The stark contrast between Emily and Stephanie is what makes the first part of the movie so hilarious. Emily is everything Stephanie isn’t, but somehow their friendship works. They share their deepest darkest secrets, shed a few tears and develop a close bond. Or so Stephanie thinks. The friendship seems so improbable to other characters in the story that a certain set of parents with minor roles consistently comment on the unlikely partnership.

The story really gets going once Emily asks Stephanie to watch her son Miles and doesn’t return home. The tone switches from funny to ominous. An investigation ensues and Stephanie asks for help from her army of vlog followers — one of whom submits a tip that helps Stephanie snoop around Emily’s past. Who would’ve thought the mommy vlog could actually be useful? The vlog gains attention and enters the nation-wide spotlight.

Stephanie, in the midst of her efforts to help Miles and Sean, Emily’s husband, begins to take over Emily’s life. She moves into Emily’s home, which doesn’t look good during the police investigation. Tension spikes once it’s discovered that Sean and Emily took out a 4 million dollar insurance policy before her disappearance. The neighborhood begins to disapprove of Sean and Stephanie’s behavior when the two get together only a few weeks after Emily’s disappearance.

Before long, little hints of Emily start to show up. Miles announces that he saw his mom at school and smells like her perfume. A note with information that only Emily knew appears. Things aren’t adding up.

The first part of the movie was so slow-moving and funny that the ending seemed too rapid and fast-paced. Elaborate backstories come into play that made the movie more complicated than it needed to be. Because the first half of the movie was a bit more light-hearted and comedy based, the intense aspects of the more thrilling portion didn’t feel like they were fully explained. It was as if these characters and backstories were just included for good measure, when the story really could’ve delved into Emily’s history instead of just giving the audience bits and pieces.

There are many differences between Bell’s novel and the film, but one standout difference is Stephanie’s character development. The novel portrayed Stephanie as as weak, naive and annoying. The movie’s rendition showed a laughable Stephanie, who transformed into a determined firebomb by the end of the movie — a fantastic metamorphosis. I was proud of the woman she had become by the end of the film.

Although the ending was a little too fast paced for me, Lively and Kendrick bounced off of each other’s characters perfectly, and that was what made the movie so fantastic. For every snarky and sophisticated comment Lively made, Kendrick had a hilarious reaction or comeback. Lively was sleek and Kendrick just has this way of making the most ordinary instances absolutely hilarious. Most thrillers are serious from beginning to end, so it was nice to have almost constant laughs throughout the movie. The plot was maybe a little too intense, but the acting more than made up for it.

Brooke Hill
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