A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that A Simple Favor is an adult-targeted suburban noir comedy about a single mom (Anna Kendrick) who takes it upon herself to solve the disappearance of her aloof, fashion-plate best friend (Blake Lively). Expect lots of strong language, including swear words ("f--k," "s--t," and more) and graphic descriptions of sexual situations such as incest, affairs, and threesomes. Viewers will see multiple sexual situations; there's no "live" nudity, but an explicit portrait of one of the characters is shown frequently. Expect several violent incidents (murders, a shooting, a car accident, vehicular assault) and images of their aftermath. Characters also do a lot of day drinking, sometimes to excess, and heroin use is a plot point. Directed by Paul Feig of Bridesmaids fame, the film (based on the novel by Darcey Bell) also stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians) and Andrew Rannells.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In A SIMPLE FAVOR, Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) is a suburban single mom with lots of energy for crafts, school projects, and her vlog. She unexpectedly makes friends with fellow mom Emily (Blake Lively), an aloof fashion-plate with a handsome husband (Henry Golding), a great house, and a seemingly perfect life. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie sets out to solve the mystery -- quickly discovering she didn't know her friend as well as she thought.
Is it any good?
Director Paul Feig, screenwriter Jessica Sharzer, and company have hit on a new genre -- the Cute Noir -- and they've done it with style, humor, and a spicy sprinkling of nerve. Under Feig's snappy direction, A Simple Favor deftly mixes noir standards -- the missing person, the femme fatale, game-changing secrets, illicit romance, the double-cross -- with the comic timing and panache of Feig's Bridesmaids and Spy, while staying based in a relatable suburban reality. Sharzer's script, adapted from Darcey Bell's novel, offers pithy observations on the mom-life ecosystem and plenty of snappy dialogue. Lively seems to have found her niche as the femme fatale, drolly dropping such casually inappropriate lines as "Mommy already has a play date with a symphony of antidepressants." When her young son says she doesn't let him have any fun, she shoots back, "I let you tear my labia as you exited my body." Lively and Kendrick have excellent chemistry as the movie's odd couple.
It's really Kendrick's movie, though, and she delivers in spade-shaped cupcakes. Her performance is multifaceted, decorated with ornate detail and wonderfully honed takes. Underneath Stephanie's comic awkwardness is a surprisingly formidable person with a significant carnal drive. The actress can stop on a dime, flashing from ultra-competent Martha Stewart disciple to stumbling, learning-on-the-job Sherlock Better Homes and Gardens. Several supporting players also distinguish themselves, including Hamilton's Andrew Rannells as a bitchy member of the mom coterie and Bashir Salahuddin as a jolly cop. The ground is laid for a sequel, and if it could be as sharp and funny as A Simple Favor, it would be welcome. This movie is twisty, nasty, snake-pit-y fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how suburban moms are typically portrayed in the media. Does A Simple Favor support or subvert that tendency? How does it ring true, and how does it depart from expectations?
Sex has a strong presence in the film. What might the movie have been like without sex as a major motivator for several characters? What did you think about the movie's depiction of the characters' sexualities?
Is Stephanie a role model? Why or why not? What does she learn over the course of the movie?
- In theaters: September 14, 2018
- Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Linda Cardellini, Henry Golding
- Director: Paul Feig
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 117 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and language throughout, some graphic nude images, drug use and violence
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