Movie Review: “A Simple Favor”

New Anna Kendrick movie will keep audiences guessing.

Racheal Jaeger
Staff Writer

“A Simple Favor” gives an impression from its title that its plot will be just that, simple from the very start. Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) tells her audience about one of her own recipes on her vlog, then grows quiet when she expresses emotion that her best friend Emily (Blake Lively), who she has known for only two weeks, has gone missing. 

The opening scenes make the audience think that it is about two different kinds of moms, one who is present and innovative while the other is busy and professional with little time for her own son Nicky (Ian Ho), but the opening scene has a foreshadowing metaphor that just like a recipe, no matter how simple it appears, has a deeper depth with its ingredients than what it looks like on the outside.

It is the same with “A Simple Favor” in how its details unfold in how its characters are driven to act or react. “A Simple Favor” shows that while a situation may appear harmless, sinister intentions lurk underneath a person. 

If someone goes to “A Simple Favor” without reading a synopsis or being told about the movie, the audience also might believe that this is a drama about two polar opposites who form a fast friendship, but Stephanie is the kind of woman who cares about other people and gives them the benefit of a doubt unless they prove her wrong.

By the climax, Stephanie finds she must overcome her naivety and protect not only herself but others around her.  

When Emily and Stephanie first meet, the camera slows to a concentrated focus of the rain falling to the point where the audience can see every drop.

The movie’s frame speed slows, nearly freezing the frame, as a person steps out of a fancy black vehicle, an umbrella hiding their face.

The audience also hears distinct and firm clicks from high heels and when the person peels the umbrella from their face, the umbrella reveals someone who has power—Emily. 

Regardless of their differences, Emily and Stephanie become quickly acquainted during their sons’ playdate and I forgot my initial instinct from Emily, that she acted like someone anybody should be careful of.

Like Stephanie, Emily lured me in with her exceptional wit and breathtaking confidence, and yet a soft heart she showed underneath her barks.

In the end, Emily only used her sensitive side to manipulate people who become close to her for her own monetary gain. 

When Emily disappeared for a supposed family emergency down in Florida after she asked Stephanie to watch Nicky for the night, I really began to wonder about Emily.

My misgivings only strengthened when she left Stephanie hanging on the other end of the line and wouldn’t return Stephanie’s phone calls and days passed.

Stephanie learned that she couldn’t trust anything Emily said, especially after a finding out a dark secret that involved her sister’s death. 

The difficult part for me was, I wanted to like Emily because of her strong personality and after Stephanie hunts her down and learns more of her secrets in her past life, I grew empathetic towards Emily and yet I couldn’t like Emily because she turned out to be manipulative and sadistic, even with her own husband Sean (Henry Golding).

She also uses Nicky to impart information to Sean and Stephanie that she might be alive and make them think for a time they might be going crazy. 

“A Simple Favor” was a clever, clever movie, especially the film editing and sound design when it came to Emily’s lingering presence after her absence. When Stephanie enters Emily’s house after she disappears, memories flood through her mind while Emily’s amused laughter echoes throughout the house.

As the plot progresses and you continue watching, you feel like the laughter mocks Stephanie for more reasons than one. 

“A Simple Favor” had my own laughter eroding from the climax to after the credits finished rolling.

When I thought I had an idea of where the plot was heading, the complicated characters and their stories kept me guessing. I will likely invest in a physical copy soon after it is released just to keep dissecting the material. 

Feature photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

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