It’s not always easy to find the right mix of genres, with productions that often fail under the weight of their own ambitions in trying to mix tones and atmospheres in search of a show that can please different audiences. And when you are faced with a film like A small favor one can only be pleasantly surprised, above all also because of that name behind the camera which had become particularly controversial – also through no fault of his – in the immediate past.
In the 2018, the year of release in theaters of the title being analyzed here, the controversies relating to the female adaptation of Ghostbusters of 2016 were in fact still hot (our review of Ghostbusters will remind you of this), which had aroused the ire of purists and set the franchise on a more demented verve, all played on the comic charisma of its protagonists. And here too it is the fairer sex who dominates, with the two main roles in which they face each other, in a captivating and heterogeneous challenge, two different charms like Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively. Now that the title has climbed the Netflix ranking, our advice is to recover it without prejudice of any kind. After having already talked about it at the time of its release in our review of A small favor, let us therefore return to the scene of the crime.
A small favor: light and shade
The story is a true act of love to the yellow classics, obviously revisited in a modern perspective and addressed to twists and turns that focus on a hybrid between lighter tones and others more diabolical and cynical. The two women at the center of the story are Stephanie and Emily, both mothers of two children: the first is widowed, the second is a successful PR married to the handsome Sean.
The little ones are schoolmates and thanks to them the two become friends, with Stephanie who often finds herself taking care of both children when the other is at work. The bond grows ever closer, but everything takes an unexpected turn when Emily vanishes without a trace and Stephanie investigates, meanwhile getting closer and closer to Sean. But behind the disappearance there may be a mystery that casts new shadows on what seemed like a perfect family…
An inconvenient truth
The balance is the true, unexpected strength of the two hours of vision and the relationship between the two protagonists fully encloses the most murky meaning, with a game of morals that is tinged with ambiguous and paradoxical notes where nothing and no one can actually be said to be innocent. And in this the flexibility that resides in the management of dynamics and characterizations takes on a fundamental value, which gives meaning to the whole film.
Nothing is as it seems and not only as regards the drifts of a screenplay that is never tamed, always ready to take its own risks – even at the cost of falling into ridicule fortunately always avoided – but also in the looks and expressions of the two main interpreters, absolute stars of this rendezvous of secrets and lies, complete with a revelation from the past that overturns the basic structure of the story, directing it to those darker and feverish tones that contribute to the dark atmosphere of the whole.
Dynamics that bring back an ironic and freak version of another cult of the last decade such as Gone Girl (2014) by David Fincher, not surprisingly often cited as a touchstone, and at least successful The girl on the train (2016). But despite more or less voluntary influences and quotations, A small favor has its own distinct personality, merit to be shared with the underlying work: the film is in fact the adaptation of the homonymous novel by Darcey Bell, in its debut volume. The rights for the film adaptation were purchased even before the release in bookstores, since the story had attracted the attention of the producers, then amply repaid by the takings that nearly reached one hundred million dollars (out of 20 of the budget).
We can therefore only reiterate our more than positive judgment already expressed at the time, which has not diminished even four years later. We laugh and smile, between twists and a constant tension in the interaction between the various characters involved, to spend an evening dedicated to smarter fun than you might think.