an illustration of two characters from A Simple Favor
Illustration by Destiny Hall-Harper, The University of the Arts

The Highs and Lows of ‘A Simple Favor’ Ahead of Its Pending Sequel

What’s in store for the film’s follow-up? Perhaps a look back on the original can provide some context.

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an illustration of two characters from A Simple Favor
Illustration by Destiny Hall-Harper, The University of the Arts

What’s in store for the film’s follow-up? Perhaps a look back on the original can provide some context.

A missing woman, twists and turns, and fun French music — it’s officially been confirmed that there will be a sequel to the film “A Simple Favor.” The 2018 mystery/comedy followed a Connecticut “mommy vlogger” named Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) who befriends another mother, Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), only to delve into her twisted past when Emily mysteriously goes missing. The film was a box office success, raking in over $97 million. In the sequel, Kendrick and Lively will star once more, though it hasn’t been confirmed whether the rest of the cast will return, including Henry Golding as Sean Townsend. Paul Feig will again direct, with Jessica Sharzer writing the screenplay. Kendrick said, “I can’t wait to revisit the hilarious, deeply dark inner world of Stephanie Smothers and reunite Stephanie and Emily under the watchful and stylish eye of the glorious Paul Feig.”

Because the pending sequel was just announced, there is not yet a trailer or release date. It’s also anyone’s guess what the plot will be. “A Simple Favor” was based on Darcey Bell’s novel of the same name, but it made many changes in adapting the novel to the screen; thus, the fact that Bell did not write a sequel will not be an impediment to the creation of the second movie. “A Simple Favor” ended with Emily in jail and Stephanie and Sean going their separate ways, with Sean moving with his son and Stephanie starting a new relationship. Perhaps the sequel will focus on Stephanie’s new love interest, or perhaps Emily will seek revenge, having somehow escaped from prison.

In anticipation of the sequel film, let’s look back on the highs and lows of “A Simple Favor.”

The Highs

The Lead Characters 

“A Simple Favor” focused on its two female lead characters — their lives and aspirations and twisted complexity. While Emily’s husband, Sean, is central to the plot both as a potential suspect, then Stephanie’s lover after Emily disappears and is then declared dead, the spotlight remains on the women. Both Stephanie and Emily are mothers, having met while picking up their sons at school, but that’s where the similarities end. Stephanie Smothers, whose very name implies a cloying, overbearing nature, is a single mother, her husband having died in a car crash that also killed her half-brother. She deeply loves being a mother, her passion for motherhood evident in her vlog geared toward moms.

She’s timid when she meets Emily, who by contrast, is confident, outspoken and self-assured. Emily has a glamorous job working for a fashion company and lives in a beautiful house with the appearance of wealth. The first time Stephanie spots Emily, she is elegantly exiting a Porsche. Stephanie is immediately enamored by Emily and her vastly different lifestyle. As the two grow closer, Stephanie notes the chemistry between Emily and her husband, her expert concoction of a gin martini and her ability to avoid being photographed. Spending time with Emily makes Stephanie bolder as Emily teaches her not to apologize for anything, which she deems a “female habit.”

Yet, beneath Stephanie’s colorful sweaters and innocent demeanor lies some secrets of her own. She was in love with her half-brother, whom she met as a teenager after her father’s death, and he is her son’s biological father. Both women have a dark, complicated past, which has made them who they are — something that is fully explored in the film.

Emily temporarily gets away with faking her own death after murdering her twin, and in the process emotionally torturing Stephanie who believes that her friend is dead. Yet, Stephanie figures out her plot by investigating her past and beats her at her own game, a positive change from the novel that has Stephanie triumph over both Emily and Sean, who have both manipulated her for their own gain. In a stunning plot twist, Stephanie reveals that she recorded Emily’s murder confession using a nanny cam concealed as a button on her sweater. As Emily is apprehended, Stephanie cheekily starts to apologize before correcting herself, in reference to Emily’s instruction to never say sorry.

Speaking on Stephanie’s character, Kendrick said, “The entire community thinks they have her figured out and it’s nice to have a mystery as a backdrop via which to peel back the layers of her personality.” For her part, Lively told Elle that to play Emily, “I just uncovered everything I’ve ever repressed in my life and was there. I don’t drink, I don’t really swear, I’m a little uncomfortable in my own skin and self deprecating but Emily is just so in her skin and so confident and so unapologetic and a little villainous, and she’s a bit of a wild child, and that was fun.”

The Story

“A Simple Favor” was a twisty mystery, and the changes made in adapting the book only intensified the thrill. The film made Emily a triplet, one twin having died before birth. Emily’s real name is revealed to be Hope, and her twin’s Faith. Faith and Hope burned down their house as teenagers, killing their abusive father. Emily knew that her twin could always find and betray her, thus her misgivings about being photographed.

Years later, in the present, Faith found her and tried to blackmail her by threatening to turn them in unless she was paid off. Emily, having already planned with Sean to fake her death for insurance money, realized her opportunity and drowned Faith, so the police would retrieve her body and think it was Hope’s. “A Simple Favor” takes the concept of an identical twin and runs wild with it, weaving an intricate story that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.

The Fashion

Blake Lively’s fashion in the film was also iconic. Most notably, she wore a white power suit that she rocks like nobody else. Referring to her time playing Serena van der Woodsen on “Gossip Girl,” Lively said, “I guess, you know, I was on a TV show for six years where I played a girl from the Upper East Side who wore lots of pretty clothes, and so this was a fashion woman who works on the Upper East Side. I wanted it to be a very different look and vibe than that, so that’s one of the reasons why I ended up in men’s suits.” Though Lively definitely did a great job at distinguishing Emily Nelson from her previous iconic role, in the wardrobe department and otherwise, viewers can’t help but compare Emily to Serena as yet another style icon.

The Lows

The Inconsistency 

“A Simple Favor” couldn’t seem to decide whether it was a scary modern thriller or a comedic commentary on social media and “mom culture.” As a result, the movie felt a little all over the place. Then again, director Paul Feig has stated his intention for the movie to include distinct elements of both comedy and thrills. He also commented, “It’s not a joke fest, this movie, but it’s behaviorally very funny” and “I was really hung up on wanting it to be suburban noir. So it’s not scary things happening in the shadows, it’s happening in broad daylight.” Levity was also achieved thanks to the upbeat French music heard in the trailer. While not much is known yet about the sequel film, it’s sure to offer some humor.

 

Writer Profile

Debbie Aspromonti

Hofstra University
Literatures in English

Debbie is a senior Literatures in English major at Hofstra University. She loves to write and is passionate about books, Broadway musicals, social issues and the law.

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