A widowed mother who runs a vlog (Anna Kendrick) befriends a glamorous and free-spirited mother (Blake Lively) through their two sons. However, when one of them vanishes without a trace, the widowed mother sets off to investigate the circumstances of her disappearance and discovers far more secrets about herself and her friend than she realised.
Examples of neo-noir cited nowadays often include 'Drive' or 'Nightcrawler', but the likes of 'Gone Girl' absolutely fall into the same category and 'A Simple Favour' owes a debt to both 'Gone Girl' and the progenitors such as 'Sunset Boulevard' or 'Laura'. Throughout 'A Simple Favour', there's all the cliches and hallmarks of a ripping mystery-noir. There's the conversations that are played back over, the inevitable twists, the money plot, all stirred together and given a modern twist.
Blake Lively gives one of her strongest performances as the ultra-chic, desperately fashionable mother who is completely at odds with Anna Kendrick's buttoned-down mommy vlogger. It's this dynamic that kicks off the plot and the humour, of which there is plenty and soaks up the moments where the movie may sag in pacing. The two characters bounce off one another and the dialogue flows with slinky elegance and bristles with comedy, but there's such a sense of knowing to it all that makes it so entertaining. Lively, in particular, is surprisingly versatile at the comedic moments and uses her glamorous persona as much as a prop as anything else, the same with Kendrick's fuddy-duddy nature - all of which points to the fact they're both presenting one face to the world and hiding another.
Paul Feig may have seemed like an unusual choice to direct something like this, as he's primarily known for comedies such as 'Bridesmaids', 'Spy', 'The Heat' and his extensive work on television including 'The US Office' and 'Arrested Development'. For all his comedy credentials, he's got a deep understanding of mystery noir and knows how to needle and subvert the cliches of the genre without overplaying his hand. Jessica Sharzer's screenplay, adapted from the novel of the same name by Darcey Bell, smartly takes a well-worn trope of noir - the voiceover - and turns into a vlog, acting as a guide through the complex but never convoluted story.
If you can get on board with its mixture of wry comedy, mystery and noir, 'A Simple Favour' has a lot to offer and makes for an enjoyable experience, served with a twist.