A Film Review By Mimi Anagli
When at a movie theatre, I usually leave with feelings ranging from amazement, awe, disappointment, annoyance, to discontent. But never have I walked out of a theatre with the overwhelming feeling of pure confusion, until I saw Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor. Of course I have been confused by films before, I mean it’s sort of impossible not to have been when you’ve seen films like Mulholland Drive or Inception, but the type of confusion I felt from A Simple Favor was unlike any other. I think the easiest way to dissect this confusion is in layers.
The first layer of confusion comes from the plot itself. In the film, important information is not communicated to the audience, which creates a shallow confusion that is somewhat resolved in the end. But this sort of reverse dramatic irony is done in a bizarre way that makes the film feel incohesive. It almost feels like some key scenes were left out of the movie on accident. Without giving any spoilers, an example of this is with the relationships that form in the movie. For two specific characters, the progression of their relationship was quite literally: meet for the first time, spend a couple days together (no hint of a romantic relationship at this point), fall completely and utterly in love with each other. It almost felt like Feig forgot what a timelapse was. You leave the theatre with more questions than you came in with. The motives of each character are never fully made clear, it almost felt like towards the end of the film characters started doing things because they felt like it, which muddles up the plot even more.
Now, having details not quite line up is something I can get past. What I can’t get past is not being able to pinpoint the exact tone Feig was trying to convey in this film, which leads me to my next layer of confusion. While watching the film, I had this unsettling feeling the entire time and it wasn’t until after that I realized it was because I didn’t exactly know how to react. Picking up the tone of a movie is a pretty simple thing. You smile at light-hearted scenes, laugh at funny scenes, frown or cry at sad scenes, it’s really not that complicated. But when it came to A Simple Favor I was lost, searching for an emotion to latch on to. The film walked this very fine line of murder mystery and comedic parody of a murder mystery, and I still can’t tell which one it was. There were a number of scenes that were so stupidly ridiculous that it was funny, but there wasn’t quite enough for me to be certain that the film was trying to mock murder mysteries. There was a part in the film where someone gets hit by a car, and it was at that moment where I lost it. It was such an uncomfortable and awkward scene that I couldn’t help but laugh. To my surprise, no one else laughed, which made me feel even more conflicted with my feelings.
To put it in a nutshell, I was thoroughly confused with what Paul Feig’s vision was. He is known for his hilarious comedies starring Melissa McCarthy, the queen of comedy, which prompts me to believe he was leaning towards a comedy with this film, but fell a little short. At this point, you may be wondering, did she or did she not like this film? To be honest, I’m asking myself that too. The film had all the signs of a bad movie, and yet I can’t help but like it. I was undeniably entertained, which I guess has to count for something.