A favor to a friend turns into a suburban, stay-at-home mother’s worst nightmare in the new thriller “A Simple Favor.” Stephanie, played by Anna Kendrick, is a prim and proper single mom, who curates an advice vlog for moms when she’s not busy frosting cupcakes for her son’s bake sale. Blake Lively plays her counterpart, Emily, a mom with an impressive career and stylish pantsuits. The two characters form an unlikely friendship due to their sons, but what develops from the friendship is something Stephanie is not equipped to handle.
Director Paul Feig, who is known for directing hits like “Bridesmaids,” frames “A Simple Favor” within Stephanie’s vlog episodes. Stephanie talks directly to the audience, as though we are her viewers. From the start of the film, there is a stark contrast between Stephanie and Emily. Visually, Stephanie wears cute but sensible clothing, whereas Emily’s clothes have plunging necklines and are complimented by towering, high-heeled shoes. Furthermore, Stephanie is eager to participate in motherly tasks, but there is an air of social awkwardness in all of her interactions. Emily’s personality has its own flaws though; underneath her cool exterior, it is obvious to the audience that she is hiding something.
Emily and Stephanie’s friendship begins over afternoon cocktails at Emily’s home. Emily expertly mixes martinis in a chilled glass, with no ice and a twist. Unknown to some, the gin used heavily throughout the film is Aviation Gin, a company recently purchased by Lively’s husband, actor Ryan Reynolds. Although the company name is not explicitly mentioned, the product placement certainly serves its advertising purposes.
The gin itself serves as the liquid courage within the film. Stephanie becomes more and more comfortable with Emily, as she reveals a few dark secrets from her past. The audience starts to understand that Stephanie is not the innocent mother she appears to be. Emily remains relatively tight-lipped about her past, speaking more about her husband and son.
Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son one day after school, as a favor to her. This is where the film gets interesting. Stephanie picks up both of the boys after school, but then cannot get in touch with Emily. Emily’s husband Sean, played by Harry Golding from “Crazy Rich Asians,” is conveniently visiting his mother in London when Stephanie tries to reach him.
A missing person report is filed for Emily and Sean flies back to Connecticut to be with his son. The rest of the film is a series of plot twists, which suggest Emily’s disappearance was not an accident. As Lily Green ’19 puts it, “The twists start coming and they don’t stop until the film is over.”
(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
The most interesting twist, however, is that sweet and sympathetic Stephanie is all too comfortable living in Emily’s house after Emily is presumed dead. Stephanie refers to herself as “Emily’s best friend,” yet she is sleeping with Sean after the police supposedly find Emily’s body. It’s at this point where a surprising psychopathic aspect of Stephanie’s personality is revealed.
It is also difficult for the audience to discern whether or not Sean is innocent. A detective suggests Sean may have killed his wife in order to claim an enormous life-insurance policy. While Sean may be innocent, he is certainly not without flaws. He convinces Stephanie that their new relationship is not wrong, and even suggests she take a Xanax or two to calm down.
Lively and Kendrick have both come a long way since “Gossip Girl” and “Pitch Perfect.” Each actress gives an impressive performance under the direction of Feig. “A Simple Favor” is a film that is nothing but simple, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat until the credits roll.