A simple favor - hybrid genre

Hybrid genre movies and why we need them

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Hybrid genre movies are everywhere, but often we find it difficult to recognize them.

The average person has watched enough films to understand the difference between one genre and another, but what if those two genres were blended together?

Would the average person be able to tell that the movie they’re watching or the screenplay they’re reading is a hybrid genre? No, and that’s the strength of those movies: unpredictability.

What is a hybrid genre?

A movie is a hybrid genre when instead of focusing exclusively on one genre, it blends two or more recognizable genres together.

For example:

The sound of music focuses a lot on the musical genre (I mean, it’s in the title…). Beauty and the beast is a musical as well, but it also has fantasy elements and borrows from the romance genre.

You might be tempted to say: “Then all movies are hybrid because all movies use elements from other genres”. Well, it’s not exactly like that.

A story cannot be created from genre tropes. There must be something that breaks the tension in a thriller, and there must be something other than smooching in a romance.

Is this a kissing book - hybrid genre movies

The crucial difference between a hybrid film and a film with a genre and a subgenre is the hierarchy.

Usually, a story can have a main genre (which is the one that defines the movie the most) and one or more subgenres (they add the “spice” but don’t really influence the movie all that much).

For example:

We can say that the main genre of the Harry Potter franchise (so both the movies and the books) is fantasy, while the subgenre is a coming of age story.

It’s easy to make that distinction in this case because when someone mentions Harry Potter the first things that come to mind are wizards, flying brooms, magic wands and bald guys with no nose, all elements typical of the fantasy genre.

While things concerning a coming of age story, like: teenage love, loss of innocence, puberty and maturity are still a big part of the story, they are not as prominent as the fantasy elements.

A hybrid movie basically doesn’t have one main genre, but two or more. One movie could be a romantic comedy because it focuses on both the romance and the comedy, but it needs to do it consistently and for most of the time.

A movie where the characters are always serious except this one time at the beginning when someone makes a joke, is not a comedy.

A movie where the lead lives his life without ever thinking about love or relationships but meets his soulmate 30 seconds before the ending, is not a romance.

The Fast and The Furious (2001) has two love stories, but it would be hard to define it a romantic movie since collectively the two romances take something like 5 minutes of screen time.

 Meanwhile, Baby Driver focuses on both the action and the musical genre for the entire time (seriously, almost all scenes are in sync with the music) and for that reason it can be considered a hybrid genre movie

Why are hybrid genre movies so important?

The audience is able to recognize what’s the genre of the movie they are about to watch from the poster. Don’t believe me? Take a look at those two:

The fault in our stars and Philadelphia - hybrid genre movies

Both Philadelphia and The fault in our stars involve people with an illness.

But you can tell that the one that looks like something Nicholas Sparks wrote (the two, rigorously white, people almost kissing) is a romance, while the one with the big ass gavel in the center is a legal drama.

Recognizing the genre of a movie is easy, you don’t need to go to film school for that. What follows after the audience member has recognized the genre is the expectations:

  • Western= someone at some point is going to fire a gun
  • Murder mystery= a detective, amateur or P.I. will appear and investigate
  • Michael Bay= a character will make a sexist joke and something will go BOOM

And expectations make things more difficult, because if you make a movie using just genre tropes people will find it predictable.

So you’ll need to put a twist on it, just to make sure that the movie they are watching is not something they have already seen a thousand times.

This is exactly what a hybrid genre film does: it gives the people something familiar to recognize but subvert their expectations by giving them something new to be excited about.

A simple favor

The first time I watched the trailer for A simple favor I was confused. And judging by the YouTube comment section, I wasn’t alone:

After all, this movie is a hybrid genre film with 3 completely different genres blended together (comedy, mystery, and thriller), sum it up in a 2 minutes video couldn’t possibly be an easy task.

Anna Kendrick herself talking to Trevor Noah in an interview at The Daily Show said that the movie can be disappointing since everyone has a different impression of the trailer (some think it’s a comedy, others think it’s a thriller etc…).

Comedy

It’s a genre that usually has very few twists and dramatic moments.

The comedy genre focuses on humor, its characters are an exaggeration of certain behaviors, and things that are given a lot of importance in dramas (like death, violence etc…) can be used for laughs.

A simple favor uses its comedy to break the tension after a thrilling scene. This way the movie can still be “dark” but also subvert the clichèes that would make it predictable.

For example, Stephanie says this line right after being interrogated by the detective that is working on Emily’s case:

Why would someone shoot her up with heroine in Michigan when there’s plenty of good heroine here in Connecticut… I’m told.

– A simple favor

She panics as soon as she realizes that she’s a suspect, but rather than making this moment dramatic or frightening, the writers chose to make it funny so that the audience can feel a bit of relief after a tense scene.

The comedy is consistent throughout the movie (in fact the moments that made me laugh the most are at the beginning and at the end), and almost every key scene has either a visual or a verbal joke that let the audience catch their breath.

Mystery

Mystery almost always involves the resolution of a crime or, at least, a problem. Something happens, and someone will have to investigate.

Here the mystery is Emily’s disappearance at first, and her “messages from the beyond” later. Stephanie takes the role of the investigator, she digs deep into her past and realizes why she left and what she wants.

The “detective” side of Stephanie gives her character more depth. It shows that she’s not just the clumsy and awkward mommy vlogger, she can also be smart and resourceful.

Thriller

Thriller is always mixed with other genres. A thriller is just a movie that makes the audience feel frightened or creates suspense, but those two feelings need a context and a reason to exist.

In A simple favor there’s a lot of suspense and fear for the life of the characters, and this fear is created thanks to the mystery that forms the plot.

We know that Emily is an unpredictable and selfish person, so whenever Stephanie gets in the way of Emily’s plan, we fear for her life. Emily is similar to a monster or a slasher, whose presence is enough to make the audience jump on their seats.

The combination of thriller and comedy also manages to “trick” the viewer into creating certain expectations and be shocked when the opposite happens.

The montage where Stephanie dances happily while moving in is abruptly interrupted by the sight of the closed full of Emily’s clothes.

All the tension of the anticipated scene where Stephanie confronts Emily and Sean is broken when the two stark bickerings and completely ignore the gun pointed at them.

Nowadays we live in a world where being surprised of a plot twist is hard.

Before the movie even comes out we know which actor is going to play which character (and if that actor is Sean Bean we already know that we shouldn’t get too attached).

We get to see the “behind the scenes” footage on YouTube, we hear actors and director talking about the plot.

Basically, we can get an idea of how the story is going to end before it even starts.

In the end, a movie with a hybrid genre can be hard to write, but if done well it can give the audience a great experience. They create expectations but subvert them in clever ways, and by doing so, they manage to be surprising.

Never watched A simple favor? You can find it here:


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