After generating handsome box office returns for Crazy Rich Asians, Henry Golding continues his winning streak with second Hollywood movie, A Simple Favor.
The mystery thriller is earning both rave reviews and steady ticket sales after opening about a month ago in the United States.
Directed by Paul Feig, A Simple Favor begins with the squeaky-clean, energetic stay-at-home mum Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) who keeps a swear jar at home (or as she calls it, “her oopsy jar”) and spreads her chirpy, glass-half-full sensibilities through her cooking and craft vlog.
She meets Emily (Blake Lively), one of the parents at her son’s school, and the two forge an unlikely friendship.
Emily is, well, a little different from Stephanie. She is obsessed with her career, swears every chance she gets (I think I hear an oopsy jar somewhere begin to crack) and loves to knock back a few drinks in the middle of the day. OK, well a lot different.
After striking up a brief but deep friendship (you know it’s serious when friendship bracelets are made!), Stephanie gets a call from Emily one day asking for a simple favour – to help look after her kid while she attends to some work matters.
And that’s the last time she hears from her. She learns from Emily’s husband, Sean (Golding), that there is a lot more to Emily than meets the eye.
As the days go by, the ever-enthusiastic Stephanie goes full-on Sherlock Holmes, searching for clues and even rallying her vlog viewers to keep an eye out for the MIA Emily.
A Simple Favor is one fun, mysterious, and at times, downright crazy, helluva ride.
First things first, the film effectively turns the stereotypical female character on its head. Sure, female leads Stephanie and Emily start out as cliched as they can be – one a wholesome, floral-print-loving housewife and the other a working mum with a phone glued to her ear half the time.
But as the show progresses, viewers will discover that both these characters have deep, complex secrets that don’t fit any of the labels society often slaps on them.
Suffice to say, A Simple Favor does more than just meet the need of having more female-driven stories in Hollywood right now, it boasts female characters who are dynamic and unexpected.
The film’s dialogues are also so well-written and witty. There’s a scene where Emily has a conversation with Stephanie as she makes a martini from start to finish. While nothing much happens in the scene, the strength of the script is enough to hold viewers’ attention.
One of my favourite one-liners comes from Stephanie, who tells her vlog viewers in the middle of a cooking tutorial: “Secrets are like margarine – easy to spread but bad for the heart.”
Kendrick’s turn as Stephanie is one of the best things about the film. The actress’ innate likeability certainly works in her favour, but it is her perfect comedic timing and effortless delivery that makes her a show-stealer.
Lively, who hasn’t made as much impact on film as she did on TV, finally gets her breakthrough role on the big screen, convincingly playing the steely, hard-hearted Emily.
I left Golding mostly out of the synopsis earlier, but he actually plays a prominent part in the movie. As a newcomer, there’s a genuine earnestness and sincerity in him which lends naturally to his portrayal of the good-natured Sean.
The film works because its overarching mystery keeps you at the edge of your seat. Audiences themselves get so engrossed they can’t help but play detective, thoroughly combing through every scene for clues about Emily’s disappearance.
(Although, it does get a bit annoying when scenes get censored and you’re afraid you might’ve missed something.)
A combination of suspenseful twists and turns, irreverent humour and capable actors have yielded rather favourable results for A Simple Favor.
A Simple Favor
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Blake Lively, Anna Kendrick, Henry Golding, Andrew Rannells, Linda Cardellini, Rupert Friend