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Paul Feig Takes a Break From Comedy for ‘A Simple Favor’

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are in talks to star in the mystery thriller.
By  · Published on June 21st, 2017

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are in talks to star in the mystery thriller.

Lionsgate has sealed the deal with Paul Feig to direct his adaptation of Darcey Bell’s debut novel, “A Simple Favor,” Deadline reports. Set in suburban Connecticut, the thriller follows the story of a mommy blogger whose best friend suddenly vanishes and leaves her life behind, including a husband and child. She believes that her friend wouldn’t willingly disappear without a trace, especially without her son, and begins investigating what really happened.

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are in negotiations to lead the project, according to The Tracking Board, although there are currently no details on which role either actress is up for.

Studios aren’t short of drama thrillers. These generic and usually exploitative films involving killers, kidnappers, and the like have been known to sport famous faces in their casts. Nevertheless, they sometimes manage to surprise. Prisoners and Gone Girl are two recent, wonderful examples of the thriller done right. Auteurs like Denis Villeneuve and David Fincher have breathed life into the genre, creating rich, layered films that are both critically acclaimed and commercially successful.

But leave it to Hollywood to take on an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach with its content. It continues to attempt to replicate its wins by finding incredibly similar narratives to bank on.

Case in point: the eponymous source material of Tate Taylor’s 2016 film The Girl on the Train was widely compared to Gillian Flynn’s original book of “Gone Girl.” In turn, “A Simple Favor” comes across fairly similarly, too. It also touches on the suspicious disappearance of a protagonist and deals with relationships between women. Bell’s book was even preemptively acquired for adaptation last year.

Nevertheless, let’s give A Simple Favor the benefit of the doubt. It’s difficult to determine where it will fall on any success scale as the film is still in its early stages of production. Feig has a distinctive voice in cinema to craft memorable films. However, it is not one that’s particularly close to the thriller genre.

Aside from a single drama that marked his debuted (the World War II picture I Am David), Feig is best known for helming comedies such as Bridesmaids, The Heat, and Spy. These movies increased the presence of women’s voices within male-dominated buddy cop and action movies. They put Feig on the map as a proponent for this particularly unapologetic form of women’s cinema.

Such a filmography surely led Feig in the direction of the highly controversial 2016 Ghostbusters reboot. Critics responded well to the film, although it was considered a box office bomb and generated distinctly divided audience reactions. Nevertheless, conversation surrounds it to this day. Original Ghostbuster writer and actor Dan Aykroyd recently criticized Feig’s work on the reboot, suggesting that the director grossly overspent on reshoots. While Aykroyd did clarify his support for the final cut of the film, it remains proof that Feig is still coming under scrutiny almost an entire year after its release date.

It’s no surprise then that he’s tackling something completely different that’s on a smaller scale. It may not to be too far removed from Feig’s brand, if the involvement of the charming, charismatic Anna Kendrick is anything to go by. But judging by the synopsis of the book, we’ve hardly seen Feig as serious as this.

A Simple Favor is scheduled to shoot in Toronto with an August start date.

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Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)