Anna Kendrick regrets granting Blake Lively "A Simple Favor" - here's our review of the 4K Combo Pack!
A single mother (Anna Kendrick) gets caught up in a web of lies and suspicion when her new friend (Blake Lively) disappears. Also stars Henry Golding. Directed by Paul Feig.
A Simple Favor is actually two films in one: it begins as a riveting crime thriller involving the disappearance of a glamourous PR executive (Blake Lively), but shifts to a dark comedy in the second half, as the outrageous truth behind the mystery is revealed.
Director Paul Feig is known for his comedies, including Bridesmaids and the Ghostbusters reboot. A Simple Favor, at first, seems like a stark departure from his usual comedic approach - it introduces a solid crime thriller surrounding the disappearance of Lively’s character of Emily. Anna Kendrick injects some goofy humor into her character of Stephanie, Emily’s new friend who delves into the mystery of her disappearance.
As Stephanie discovers more of Emily’s secrets, however, the film actually gets lighter and funnier. The subject matter stays dark, but Feig’s approach shifts the tone to a satirical dark comedy.
Whether this shift in the film’s tone works depends on how well you as a viewer buy into the entire premise. The performances certainly sell it: Lively is particularly good as Emily, a cold, bitchy New York executive who treats everyone around her terribly. Regardless, Lively makes Emily an interesting character, and Kendrick’s Stephanie, a single mom with no social life outside of her vlog, finds herself drawn to her.
A Simple Favor mostly works despite having nearly no positive characters - each one has some personal faults which would make them annoying and unwatchable in a lesser film. Even Kendrick’s Stephanie is frustratingly annoying - she’s needy and exudes a insecure positivity. That’s why Stephanie is so keen to be friends with Emily, an urban professional who seems to have it all together.
When Emily disappears, however, Stephanie does everything you shouldn’t in a crime like this. She gets close to Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding), and acts guilty when the police start asking questions. It should be hard to be sympathetic for someone who should know better, but Kendrick manages to make Stephanie a very watchable train wreck.
As the plot takes a number of turns, the film turns up the comedy, particularly at the halfway point. As Stephanie uncovers the truth and finds her inner strength, Kendrick’s natural flair for comedy begins to highlight her performance. The film builds to an almost improbable conclusion, with some near-preposterous turns and even a visual gag straight out of Mean Girls. It shouldn’t work at all, but Kendrick and Lively manage to make you care about these unlikeable people, so you’re invested into seeing how it will all play out in the end.
The climax may be a bit much, and even a bit disappointing compared to the build-up in the first half of the film. Even so, Feig keeps it all watchable, ensuring the tone doesn’t go too far. He even injects a classic French score and 60s fashion sense to give it a unique style that actually sells the outlandish premise. Kendrick and Lively work wonders to make their unappealing characters totally watchable and entertaining, making A Simple Favor far better than you would expect.
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video transfer is fantastic, offering up superior detail and rich colors. The film begins with a bright, cheery color palette, but it gets darker and monochromatic as it progresses (take note of the shift in Kendrick’s dresses from beginning to end). The transfer handles the wide range of colors well, from bright reds and yellows to the inky blacks and greys.
The 4K disc utilizes Dolby Vision, which adjusts and optimizes the HDR video in each scene for the best possible quality as the director intended. This feature is available only if your player and television support Dolby Vision.
The soundtrack is a 7.1 Dolby TrueHD mix, and is very well done, balancing the score and spoken word well, with a good surround effect throughout the channels.
The bonus features are highlighted by eight featurettes and three audio commentaries, providing a pretty comprehensive look at the making of the film.
The extras included on the disc (available on both the 4K disc and the Blu-ray) are as follows.
“Special Features Introduction by Paul Feig” video clip. Director Paul Feig welcomes you to the bonus features section with a quick hello. Running Time: 17 seconds.
“Gravestone Martinis” featurette. The contrast between Stephanie and Emily is explored in interviews with director Paul Feig, Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and writer Jessica Sharzer. Running Time: 19:40.
“Suburban Noir: The Visual Style of A Simple Favor” featurette. Members of the cast and crew discuss the look of the film, which translates a vintage noir style with modern filmmaking. Running Time: 12:27.
“Dapper Director Diaries with Paul Feig” featurette. Selections from Paul Feig’s video diary show the progression of the film’s production. Running Time: 10:34.
“Love Triangle” featurette. The climax of the film is detailed by director Paul Feig. Running Time: 6:11.
“Style by Paul” featurette. Blake Lively discusses how Paul Feig’s style inspired the costume choices for her character of Emily, including his infamous walking stick. Running Time: 4:46.
“Flash Mob Making Of” featurette. The film was supposed to end with a scene involving a flash mob. The scene was eventually cut, but this featurette shows how the scene was choreographed and shot. Running Time: 5:23.
“Dennis Nylon” featurette. The character of fashion designer Dennis Nylon is profiled by Paul Feig. Running Time: 4:55.
“A Simple Playdate” featurette. Ian Ho and Joshua Satine, who play the two kids in the film, are profiled here. Running time: 4:33.
“Flash Mob” Alternate Ending. This alternate ending, which was supposed to play over the credits, is presented here. Includes an optional introduction by Paul Feig. Running Time: 5:57.
Gag Reel. The blooper reel may be a staple of the bonus feature section, but this gag reel is actually worth watching. Running Time: 3:30.
Deleted Scenes. This nearly 12-minute clip includes a number of deleted scenes. Running Time: 11:49.
Digital Code. A code that redeems a digital version of the movie in services including VUDU and FandangoNow is included. Lionsgate movie digital codes do not redeem in Movies Anywhere, and you should confirm with your digital movie service if the code will indeed redeem a 4K version of the film, as some services do not.
Audio Commentary. Three audio commentaries are included. Director Paul Feig is the lone participant on the first. The second includes Feig with cast members Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, Jean Smart, and Bashir Salahuddin. The third includes Feig with crew members Jessica Sharzer (writer), Jessie Henderson (producer), John Schwartzman (cinematographer), and Ehrlich Kalfus (costume designer). While all three commentaries offer some nice insights, the actors commentary is by far the most entertaining.
4K ULTRA HD SPECS
Release Date: December 18, 2018
Running Time: 117 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.00:1
Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, English 2.0 Descriptive Audio
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish
Special Features: Eight featurettes, Gag Reel, Deleted Scenes, Flash Mob clip
Audio Commentary: Three commentaries are included. See the Special Features section for participants.