‘A Simple Favor’ fulfills one by teaming two fine actresses

"The Wife"
Anna Kendrick stars in “A Simple Favor”

Especially now, when so many movies don’t have a solid leading role for even one actress, it’s interesting to see a film that offers two.

“A Simple Favor” does that, and it’s so much fun in the early going, you hope it will hold up all the way through … especially since it’s from Paul Feig, the director of “Bridesmaids.” It doesn’t, but stars Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively supply enough to enjoy along the way that it’s still worth recommending.

Kendrick plays a video-blogging widow and mom who meets – and instantly becomes dazzled by – the stylish Lively, since both have children who go to the same Connecticut school. They become fast friends, leaving Kendrick puzzled and dismayed when Lively suddenly disappears. Of course, she’s determined to find out why.

Those who know the books and/or movies “The Girl on the Train” and “Gone Girl” are sure to recognize that theme from recent vintage, though “A Simple Favor” plays it a bit more lightly. That’s thanks largely to the focus staying on Kendrick, whose familiar “type-A” personality services the story well.

However, there’s more to that in the role, which also blends in the feeling of desperation that informs the character. The woman is missing something in her life and knows it, and as is the case in so many situations, she believes she’s found that needed “thing” in somebody else. (It’s not for nothing that her alter ego’s last name is “Smothers.”) And when that greatly welcome element vanishes without warning, the desperation not only returns, but intensifies.

“A Simple Favor” is at its best when it lets its two lead actresses play into their images and contrast them. Lively is supremely poised and self-assured, and Kendrick … well, as mentioned, not so much. Henry Golding, who’s been riding on a major hit with “Crazy Rich Asians,” also is present as Lively’s husband. Andrew Rannells and Rupert Friend also turn up.

The picture’s dramatic aspects may be a bit of a surprise coming from Feig, who largely has based his career in comedy, but “The Heat” and “Spy” also blended styles under his directorial guidance. And, on the television front, so did “Freaks and Geeks” and “Arrested Development.”

Even if the promise of “A Simple Favor” falls apart by the final act, it gives two female stars some choice moments on the screen together. And these days, that’s a favor in and of itself.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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