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Movie Review: 'A Simple Favor'


September is a tough month for movies. It’s not quite the dumping ground August is, but award-season movies don’t really start until October, so September is just kind of… here. But, if you look, you just might find something unexpectedly delightful.

Take Paul Feig’s new movie, A Simple Favor. Feig’s done some great work before, but he’s really only made comedies, and this… well, this isn’t a comedy. It is funny, but it’s also the sort of movie where a character name checks the brilliant and twisty French crime drama Diabolique, and for good reason.

A Simple Favor stars Anna Kendrick as the widowed mother of an elementary-school boy, who spends her time being overly helpful and making online videos of lifehack tips for other moms. One day, she meets another child’s mostly-absent mother, played by Blake Lively, who steps out of a very expensive car looking like she’s dressed for New York Fashion Week. Kendrick is immediately drawn to her power and confidence, and since their children are friends, she suggests she’d be happy to take care of both kids on occasion after school. Lively needs a nanny, so she’s all too happy to pretend that the two mothers are now friends, much to Kendrick’s joy.

The two quickly become “best friends” in Kendrick’s eyes, although this is mostly by default, as she really has no other friends. But they do, at least, have a few drinks together and divulge a couple of scandalous secrets, before Lively up and disappears without a trace a couple of days later.

What follows as Kendrick investigates her friend’s disappearance genuinely surprised me, as I was sure I knew where things were headed multiple times before they veered off in another direction. Kendrick herself is just fantastic, full of nervous energy and eagerness, and Blake Lively is better than I’ve ever seen her, aggressive and manipulative and more than a touch psychopathic. The movie’s a bit overstuffed, with maybe a few too many twists and double-crosses, but in September, that hardly matters, and really, A Simple Favor would be a whole lot of fun no matter what time of the year it is.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.