You get a lot of bang for your buck with this blu-ray release of Paul Feig’s comedic thriller A Simple Favour. The disc is bursting with the kind of essential special features we need to see more often for physical releases. I’ll cover them in more detail as we go on, but three feature length commentaries, and over 90-minutes of bonus material definitely make this a disc worth buying. Other home entertainment distributors please take note.
The film itself is a delicious and slightly peculiar cocktail. Anna Kendrick – on unbelievably adorable form – is Stephanie, a lifestyle mommy vlogger who befriends the impossibly glamorous Emily – a brilliant and bitingly acidic performance from Blake Lively – when their two sons become friends. Soon they are throwing back martinis, and sharing their deepest secrets with each other. When Emily asks Stephanie for a simple favour – to pick up her son from school – she of course says yes. Then Emily disappears in mysterious circumstances.
Riffing on all sorts of different styles and genres, from Film Noir to the French new wave, Paul Feig’s well-dressed caper is an absolute blast to watch, but it walks a very fine line in terms of tone. Look at his previous films, and you can see that he always blends comedy with another genre, such as espionage (Spy), relationship drama (Bridesmaids), or science fiction fantasy (Ghostbusters). Sometimes it works beautifully, other times it jars. A Simple Favour has a well-heeled foot in both camps.
There’s some incredibly dark material in A Simple Favour, and some aggressively abrasive humour to go with it. But then it will turn on a dime to being incredibly light and breezy, and unlike the perfectly mixed martinis in the film, these ingredients don’t really sit well with each other. But when it’s good, it is really good. Kendrick is an utter delight as Stephanie, switching from domestic mom to amateur sleuth as she tries to track Emily down, with her vlog becoming her on-going case file. And Blake Lively has never been better, delivering some of the most forthright and fucked up dialogue you have ever heard. Her response to her 5-year-old son when he whines that she never lets him have any fun, is one for the ages.
Elsewhere in the cast, the trio of snarky parents (Andrew Rannells, Kelly McCormack, and Aparna Nancherla) watching everything unfold from the side-lines are hilarious. Visually, there’s a real elegance to the style of the film. The influences are obvious – sometimes even quoted in the film – but Feig, his cinematographer John Schwartzman, and production designer Jefferson Sage have made A Simple Favour into a very beautifully designed film.
It slips up however in the more sinister aspects of the story. Pitched as a mystery thriller, it ends up being neither mysterious nor thrilling, and the best bits are where Feig falls back into his comedic comfort zone of exquisitely barbed dialogue. So yes, A Simple Favour is funny throughout, with enough ridiculous twists and turns to keep you entertained, but it doesn’t quite achieve what it sets out to. It’s like a drink that doesn’t quite hit the spot. The ingredients are all there, they just needed to be mixed better.
As mentioned above, the disc is packed with bonus goodies, starting with an intro to the special features from director Paul Feig. There are then three feature length commentaries to choose from. The first is a director commentary from Paul Feig. The second features Feig, along with actors Anna Kendrick, Blake Liveley, Jean Smart, and Bashir Salahuddin. The final commentary has Paul Feig talking about his movie once again, but this time he is joined by writer Jessica Sharzer, producer Jessie Henderson, cinematographer John Schwartzman, and costume designer Renée Ehrlich Kalfus.
Then we move onto the main bonus content, which kicks off with Gravestone Martinis, which focuses on the two main characters and the fabulous performances from Kendrick and Lively. Suburban Noir is the next short documentary, giving us a behind the scenes look at the making of the film, and the cool visual style, costumes, and production design.
Next up is a series of short video features. The Dapper Director Diaries are Paul Feig’s video diaries from the set. Love Triangle takes a closer look at the film’s finale. Style by Paul sees Feig discussing the fashion in the film, specifically how his own immaculate sartorial style fed into the design of how Emily would look, dress, and walk. The Flash Mob making of is a behind the scenes from one of the deleted scenes. Dennis Nylon is a short featurette about the fashion firm where Emily works, focusing on the location and set design. Finally there is A Simple Play date is about the two child actors (Ian Ho and Joshua Satine) who played Nicky and Miles.
The disc rounds things off with the alternate ending Flash Mob scene. This can be viewed with an optional introduction from Paul Feig, where he explains why they cut this out. There’s also a short gag reel of not very funny bloopers, and last but not least, over ten-minutes worth of deleted scenes, accompanied by an introduction from Paul Feig.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Henry Golding Director: Paul Feig Writer: Jessica Sharzer Released By: Lionsgate Certificate: 15 Duration: 117 mins Release Date: 21st January 2019