Movie Review: A Simple Favor

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed Darcey Bell’s novel, I eagerly awaited the release of this psychological thriller starring Anna Kendrick (mommy blogger Stephanie) and Blake Lively (fashionista Emily).

Both actresses deliver stellar performances: Kendrick nails the part of the friendless Type-A personality who over-volunteers at her son’s school while Lively shocks and titillates as she releases her inner mean girl.

Evocative French pop songs play in the background as vulnerabilities are revealed, and secrets are shared over chilled martinis. Stephanie’s constant apologizing and awkwardness contrast with the detached ruthlessness of Emily’s character. A telling line from Emily: “Baby, if you apologize again, I’m going to have to slap the sorry out of you.”

In spite of several red flags in Emily’s behavior, Stephanie is thrilled with the budding friendship. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie steps in and helps Emily’s husband Sean (Henry Golding) with his son and household. Soon after the funeral, she moves in and assumes Emily’s role as wife and mother. Throughout the film Stephanie gives updates on her “vlog” as her follower count skyrockets.

From here the plot veers in unexpected directions: a corpse (assumed to be Emily’s) is found at the bottom of a lake in Michigan, Emily’s son Nicky (Ian Ho) reports that he has seen his mother, and Stephanie starts to wonder if Emily is really dead.

Determined to solve this mystery, Stephanie puts on her Nancy Drew hat and starts investigating. She sneaks into offices, breaks into filing cabinets, tracks down an ex-lover, and has a run-in with Emily’s fashion designer boss, Dennis Nylon (Rupert Friend). Nylon dismisses Stephanie with a stinging barb: “Never wear a vintage Hermès scarf with a Gap T-shirt. If you were truly Emily’s friend, you’d know that.”

The more Stephanie investigates, the more she realizes how little she knows of Emily. A fact corroborated by Sean who refers to his wife as a “beautiful ghost.”

More crimes surface—arson, fraud, multiple murders—in this twisted tale of cross and double-cross. Spoiler Alert: If you’ve read the book, you’ll be taken aback by the altered ending.

A must-see film!

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