Anna Kendrick shines in stylish but overcomplicated thriller

After a summer full of massive box office hits and groundbreaking independent films, A Simple Favor comes as a much-needed reminder that just because something can be a movie, that doesn’t mean it should.

The film centers around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mom blogger who finds herself caught up in a macabre mystery surrounding her new friend Emily (Blake Lively). Without question, the best thing this movie has going for it is the presence of Anna Kendrick. Her performance alone carries much of the first half of the film – her stuttering, awkward delivery and passive demeanor are incredibly convincing, especially in contrast to the statuesque Blake Lively. Kendrick makes the most of an inconsistent script, and the level of complexity and detail elevates her beyond ‘Pitch Perfect’ status. The same, however, cannot be said for the rest of the cast.

While Blake Lively certainly looked the part of a stylish and mysterious temptress, her lines often feels forced or flat, and she isn’t incredibly believable as a psychotic gold-digger. Not much of the blame can be shifted to Lively, however, because the biggest problem I had with the movie was it’s direction. In that sense, the blame falls to director Paul Feig. Some of you may recognize that name, and that’s because Feig is responsible for some of the most famous comedies from the last decade – Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat, and Knocked Up. While Feig may be a master of comedy, it’s clear that he had some trouble finding his footing with his first venture into another genre.

As to be expected with anything directed by Feig, A Simple Favor is at its best when it leans into its comedic side. It’s weaknesses, as a result, come in the form of the overly-complicated plot. While it’s true that all films adapted from books automatically have less time to deliver their story, A Simple Favor often feels rushed and crammed. True, this means that there’s never a dull moment in the movie, but it also results in a lack of weight during important scenes. As a viewer, it’s difficult to appreciate a revelation  when we’ve only just been given the information necessary to understand it. The rapid onslaught of twist after twist removes any chance for the viewer to truly appreciation the cleverness of the writing, something that really works against the film as a whole.

However, the moments when the films strikes the perfect balance between comedy and thriller are truly enjoyable; Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively have excellent chemistry that, when utilized correctly, make them mesmerizing to watch together. When twists start to unwind in the third act, that’s where the movie really kicks into high gear. With the addition of Henry Golding to play off of the two leading ladies, the ending of this film is a wild ride that very few will see coming.

All in all, A Simple Favor is a strong (but flawed) step in the right direction for Paul Feig, and a showcase of Anna Kendrick’s sizable talent. Though it can be over complicated and campy at times, I would highly recommend A Simple Favor to anyone looking for an enjoyable macabre evening.