It’s a controversial statement, I know, because a lot of people haven’t liked A Simple Favour, and a lot of people love Hitchcock. But A Simple Favour is clearly inspired by Hitchcock and his contemporaries, that much is clear from the Saul Bass-esque title sequence:
The main reason people would baulk at that statement though is that it’s not good enough to be something the Master of Suspense™ would make. But I don’t think that’s fair either (and not only because I liked the film).
Let’s take a look at the major criticism: “disjointed, doesn’t know if it’s a comedy or a thriller”.
Now let’s take a look at Hitch’s final film: Family Plot (1976). But not for too long, because it’s rubbish. In fact, look at the three before it too: Torn Curtain, Topaz, and Frenzy. They’re all terrible (occasional inspired visual moments aside). But Family Plot is probably the worst of them, and it’s the one with the most obvious comedy/thriller dichotomy.
And yet it’s within this dichotomy that Hitchcock regularly created classics: The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, North by Northwest, all run a fine line between comedy and thriller. And the later ones look like big glossy Hollywood productions, arguably like comedies of the time.
And do you know what else looks like a big glossy Hollywood production? Like a comedy…
It’s fair to say that A Simple Favour doesn’t blend it’s genres as well as Hitch’s best (or as well as it blends a Martini), but it certainly blends them at least as well as Family Plot.
To be honest, the film it really reminds me of is actually not a Hitchcock film, it’s Charade (Stanley Donen, 1963). But Charade is the best Hitchcock film he never made, even if it is itself a little disjointed.
A Simple Favour has other similarities to Hitchcock’s classics: an every-person protagonist, a femme fatale, Henry Golding is even quite like Cary Grant.
I believe that the real reason some audiences have had problems with A Simple Favour is that it is not the sort of film that gets made anymore. Thrillers are no longer made to be fun, they’re made to be disturbing and dark. You can thank David Fincher, amongst others, for that. Instead, A Simple Favour, is full of jokes, and they’re jokes that land. And not just sarcastic asides, they are actual gags. Just like the tiny razor in North by Northwest.
So if you’re going to be the 94,000th person to say that A Simple Favour doesn’t know what genre it is, then I say to you that it knows what it is, it’s just not something you like.
But you do really.