‘A Simple Favor’ full of complex themes

By Danielle Silvia
Production Manager 

A regular Saturday night with my best friend entailed the usual –– a casual hangout that invariably ends up with us watching a movie. This time we saw “A Simple Favor,” a dark comedy thriller based on the novel written by Darcey Bell. The movie, starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively, had a lot of unexpected twists and turns that filled us with suspense, making it the perfect way to spend the night.

Left: Nelson, the mysterious mother who hides parts of her past. Right: Smothers, a air headed mother of one. (YouTube)

The film opens with a vlog, featuring Kendrick who plays the role of single mom Stephanie Smothers. The vlog is intended for single moms yearning to learn new recipes, activities and simply navigate through daily life as a single parent. The vlog opens with a tearful Stephanie explaining that her best friend Emily (played by Lively) has been missing for five days after she asked Stephanie for a simple favor ––– to pick up her son after school.

The movie then cuts to a montage of flashbacks documenting the friendship between Stephanie and Emily. What made this movie unlike any other thriller I’ve ever seen is the way the flashbacks blended with the plot.

It was easy to tell that a specific scene was a flashback, but hazy enough to not be able to understand the order in which the flashbacks were happening. As a viewer, I had to piece together each “memory” on my own to make sense of what was going on, which gave me the role of both the detective and viewer.

Through the flashbacks, we learned that the two women became friends through their sons, who often pleaded for playdates after school, during which Emily and Stephanie would share martinis and spend afternoons chatting.

Emily and Stephanie were very different people; Stephanie embodied the image of the collected, cute schoolgirl and Emily was the spunky, outspoken woman with a mysterious past. Such a dichotomy in characterization made the plot so much deeper and the women’s friendship all the more mysterious.

While we are always so quick to assume we know everything about a person, this movie reminded me that there is more to people than what meets the eye. A seemingly cool and collected Emily had a darkness to her that even her best friend didn’t know about.

By the end of the movie, I questioned whether Emily and Stephanie were truly best friends. They supported one another through times of trouble and grief, laughed until they cried and spent hours talking like normal friends do, but they both displayed acts of betrayal and hostility toward one another.

But before those bleak and unspeakable moments of cruelty, the two demonstrated what best friendship should be, at least on the surface ––– having someone who understands you, will be there for you in any situation and will love you unconditionally.

When I left the theater that night with my best friend, I smiled and felt lucky to share the positive aspects of such a special friendship.