A Simple Favor is based on the best selling book by Darcey Bell and is currently available on Amazon for purchase. I do recommend NOT reading the book before the movie. You never know what direction the film takes that is outside of the author’s pages. I read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and sat during the film saying – NOT IN THE BOOK! It got rather annoying, but my brother and I had fun tallying those incidents up. The point is, it took me out of the films. So, if you want to read it, I would recommend doing it AFTER you see the film. That way you can make sure you’re not worried about what parts were left out or not.
As I have stated in many a review before – everything below this GIF can and should be considered rather spoiler-ish. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know anything more from this summary based review – otherwise scroll down.
Now that you have thoroughly been warned let me just begin my review by stating the obvious… BLAKE LIVELY (Emily Nelson) walks through scenes in power suits that would make any human being drool. Before I get bombarded with bad comments about objectifying her, I’m not. She is stunningly beautiful and the way she carries herself just makes your eyes focus on her all the time. Maybe it’s a tactic of the film itself, make you focus on one character throughout while the others move chess pieces around. I don’t care. That woman has a way about her in this film that just kept my focus the whole time. I’m married people, not dead.
Anna Kendrick (Stephanie Smothers) is, IMHO, the anchor for the entire film. She has the perfect timing with her humor but also her expressions when she has nothing to say at all. In general, Kendrick really shines in this film. Will it win her an Oscar, probably not, but she deserves to be lauded for carrying film after film to box office success. Women can make money and Kendrick and Lively have proven they can do it on their own and collectively.
The film starts off by introducing us to Stephanie and her mom vlog. She seems to be the perfect one, always invested in her child’s life, taking on various jobs to assist in class activities. The other parents even comment how she’s an amazing parent and they feel like poor ones. That set up felt a bit cliche. We’ve all been privy to the main character being called perfect just to have that halo be tilted if not broken and rusted by the end of the film. I’ll get to that later on in my review.
We learn that Stephanie has lost both her half-brother and her husband in a car crash and that money will run out at in 2020. It’s a sad reality in today’s world, but she is struggling to figure out what to do, how to
do it and how to get through it. The film sets us up to see Stephanie as alone, no real friends and no family that is involved in her world.
This all changes when Emily’s son, Nicky, wants to have a playdate with his friend Miles, Stephanie’s son. After a back and forth with her child, Emily relents and invites Stephanie over for drinks while the kids play. This starts the beginning of what we are led to believe is a new friendship. They even call each other best friends over time. That fact alone proves to the audience that these two women are in dire need of human connection that matters.
There’s a moment in the film that made me squirm and I wasn’t really sure it needed to be there. This directly relates back to my comment about the tilted or broken halos. We are led to believe that Stephanie is a really amazing mom who worked hard at making her family work. She had a loving husband who thought enough of her to have a life insurance policy. Yet, she has an incestuous affair with her half-brother Chris. She lost her father and met Chris during the wake/funeral. Stephanie tries to deny they slept together, but Emily pulls it out of her and calls her brother-fucker for the rest of the film. It’s a bit uncomfortable to say the least.
I will also add – the ladies kiss during their whole secrets segment. It’s not meant as a lesbian or a lover feel to it. I got the feeling it was truly, 100% Emily trying to showcase some kind of control over Stephanie. Youinterpretepret it however you like, but that was my personal take.
I don’t know if this was necessary to include, but it does add another element to the depth of Stephanie’s character. It feels as if she was perpetually alone. She grabs onto anything or anyone who will validate her existence. Her half-brother was the spitting image of her father that she just lost. Miles may or may not be her husband’s son or Chris’ son – we will never know. One can speculate, but in the end, Stephanie loses them both because her husband didn’t like the relationship she had with her brother. It appears that the crash was deliberate. Once again leaving Stephanie alone.
One day after their confessions, Emily calls and asks A Simple Favor to pick up Nicky from school since her husband is in London. One day turns into two and before you know it – Stephanie and Emily’s husband Sean are talking to the police. This is where the film really takes hold and runs with the story. Stephanie keeps her vlog moms updated and as little bits of information come in, she shares it. When details emerge about Emily renting a white Kia, the moms come through with a sighting. That leads to the discovery of the rental car and the body.
After a funeral for Emily, Sean and Stephanie begin to start a blended family of sorts. Once again, Stephanie latches onto someone who shows her attention and she ends up sleeping with them. After a short time frame, they declare they love each other and move in faster than a stereotypical lesbian with a U-Haul. That’s when things start to happen around the house.
Clothes are put back where Stephanie had removed them. Nicky swears his mother visits him and at one point gives a package to Stephanie while she’s driving the kids to school. After an almost car accident that would have made me stain my seat, Stephanie opens it in the kitchen revealing a photo of her and her brother with the words brother-fucker scrawled on it. This sends Stephanie into a slight tailspin and her focus becomes finding Emily.
After trips to Michigan, visiting Emily’s mother and a camp, plus a visit to an old painter ex-girlfriend, we learn Emily isn’t really an Emily at all. She was a triplet, one was stillborn and the other was a massive junkie. They were raised in an abusive house and lit a fire to kill their father. In other words, everything we’ve been told up to this point has been a lie. The secrets unfold rather quickly after that and Stephanie decides to be the game maker from now on. She uses her vlog as a way of reaching out to Emily, getting her attention and pulling her out of hiding. The two spare jabs back and forth at a tombstone over martini’s which makes me really want to add that everyone must have a glass of wine at my gravestone.
It all comes to a head when Emily, Sean, and Stephanie have a confrontation in the beautiful house that seems to suck up all of the Nelson’s money. Stephanie has a gun, fake shoots Sean in the chest. Well, Emily was onto them and played along. She laughs, kicks Sean to get him off the floor, calls them out for trying to set her up and tosses them the microphone wires she cut previously in the day. Then Emily threatens to kill them both so it all works out in her favor. All in all, she really is just a mom wanting to spend more time with her son and the insurance payout of $4M would allow her to do that. We’re supposed to feel bad for her, but I’m still thinking about how she terrorized Stephanie so I don’t.
After her big confession to the two of them, she says she was too smart to fall for it. Stephanie informs her she did confess, live on her vlog. She was wearing a small nanny cam the entire time. Emily goes a wee bit ballistic, rushes out of the house and tries to escape the cops. It’s a rather funny sequence here and I wouldn’t do it any justice by describing it. Let’s just say I had a half a liter of water and laughing was not doing me any favors at this moment.
End result, Stephanie’s vlog was doing well not only as a mom’s one but also a crime-fighting agency. Emily was adjusting well to prison life. Sean and Miles were living on the west coast.
Was the film perfect? No, not at all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a perfect film. Was I thoroughly entertained enough to want to see it again – yes. I do know I missed some things and just like a Wynonna Earp episode, I need to rewatch it to catch the hints, Easter eggs and what not. It will be a film I own when it is released. It’s fun and has Blake Lively is in a power suit. Did I mention that already?