I imagine I wasn’t the only person who saw the trailer for A Simple Favour and was fooled by the insistent French pop soundtrack into thinking that it was a remake of a French original. It’s not, thank heavens. It’s comforting proof that America can take a book and adapt it into a perfectly good movie by the simple expedients of keeping the cast small and talented and letting them act.
I’ll be honest; I was on board as soon as I saw Anna Kendrick in the trailer. I don’t know why Anna Kendrick is magic, but she just is. I pretty much didn’t care who else was there, or whether Paul Feig was directing it; I knew that Anna would somehow make her own bit special and that would somehow be enough.
It would have been, but everything else works too. Blake Lively is delightful. Anyone could have torn up the screen delivering bitchy one-liners, but she also manages to make you see the scared person hiding behind the bitch. And there’s other people, but they don’t matter all that much. This is a whole movie about a terrible friendship between two women, and the men are, at best, things that get kicked around the room by the plot.
And what a plot. What makes this a great little movie is not that there are two fun female characters owning the show; it’s that for once you also want to see what happens next. This is not just a hang out movie with two mismatched buddies. This is a mystery movie where you can’t tell who the villain might be. Emily has everything that Stephanie could possibly want; magnificent house, dreamy husband, a killer wardrobe  and approximately all the attitude in the world (Emily’s voicemail message is a magnificent “This is Emily Townsend. Leave a message or fuck off.”). Emily disappears, and within a matter of days, Stephanie has moved into the magnificent house and the dreamy husband’s arms, and ...
Was Stephanie planning this all along? She’s such a repressed dorky little thing that it feels like it would be a perfect reverse for her to have targeted Emily and moved in on her world. And Anna Kendrick shows these little moments of fire and determination to get her own way. Maybe she’s the real predator in this world.
Or maybe not. Go see the thing yourself and find out. What makes it a good movie is how hard it is to guess which way it’s going to pan out. And when it does resolve, the resolution makes sense. It’s true to what we’ve seen of these people. The movie’s very honest about the way you can’t trust people; again and again the characters tell each other stories while the action cuts away to what actually happened, just to underline how hard it is to catch a lie in a voice even when you’re being shown a lie.
And there are so many incidental pleasures, including a wonderful Greek chorus of bored parents from the school where Emily and Stephanie meet. They’re all too believably fed up with both of them, and they’re used just enough that you’re always pleased to hear from them.
Perfection’s in the details. In its own way, A Simple Favour is perfect.
 None of it is ever going to fit Stephanie, who’s a mouse beside Emily’s jungle cat, but still ….