I likened reading Darcey Bell’s A Simple Favor to enjoying a bananas smoothie of noir tropes and modern mom issues, and will extend that simile to say that I wasn’t sure how much I liked the aftertaste, but was pleased to have read it ahead of seeing the movie starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively and (the Malaysian — I may never stop saying that, I’m so proud) Henry Golding. I’d heard that the movie differed significantly from the book, so was glad to go in prepared for what turned out to be a wickedly adorable suburban noir. Instead of a smoothie, Paul Feig and co have whipped up the most delectably bananas sundae, that I would venture does the source material one better in that it eliminated that weird aftertaste while still holding true to the murderous, treacherous noir precepts. Making the movie more overtly a black comedy than the novel really plays to the strengths of the actors, particularly the two female leads as well as the trio of suburban parents who serve as a sort of Greek chorus for the goings-on. The chemistry between Ms Kendrick and Ms Lively is off the charts, and they bring their frenemies to pitch perfect (ahem) life. I’m especially impressed that a lot of the stuff was ad libbed. I sincerely hope that the duo keep doing projects together, particularly if they’re as smart and stylish as this one.
Spoiler-free notes on other significant differences between the book and movie: I felt like the movie did a much better job of showing how good a mom Stephanie was, and acknowledging how exhausting that is even to watch. While the movie changed quite a bit about Emily’s background, I did like that it gave Blake Lively’s acting chops a chance to shine. I also think they translated Stephanie’s blog to a vlog really well. And did I mention the superior ending? Perhaps it’s conventional of me to prefer the movie’s denouement to the book’s, but I’d absolutely watch the movie again before rereading it’s source, which is less a slight against the book than a compliment for the film.