Movie Review: A Simple Favor

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The trailer of “A Simple Favor” makes the movie appear like “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train.” In some ways, it is.  It’s a female-lead, mystery thriller.  The movie differs in a surprising aspect; it’s also a dark comedy.  It’s got a similar vibe to a past TV show, “Desperate Housewives.”

Emily Nelson (Blake Lively; “The Shallows,” “The Age of Adaline,” “The Town“) and Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick; “Into the Woods,” “Up in the Air“) couldn’t be more different.  Lively and Kendrick play their complicated characters and messy relationships with pitch perfection and a sense of  saucy self-awareness.

Emily is elegant and nonchalant, coolly blase in her sleekly tailored suits and trendy shoes.  She has a high-powered career as a public relations director of a fashion house and lives in a modern mansion with her handsome husband, Sean Townsend (Henry Golding, “Crazy Rich Asians“), spellbound by her enigma.  Stephanie is a nerdy mommy vlogger who dolls out lifestyle recipes online.  She’s also a super volunteer at her son’s school.  The two women strike an unlikely friendship through their sons.

The two bond over mid-day martinis at Emily’s house and share personal secrets.  Emily’s life is not so perfect after all.  The stylish house is a money pit and her professor husband is a novelist who hasn’t written another book in a decade.  She may not be the person she represents to the world.  Stephanie has her own dark past, one that she carries with guilt.  Their rapid exchanges about life, women’s roles and desires are flavored with frisky humor and snarkiness.

One afternoon Emily calls Stephanie to ask for a simple favor, picking up her son from school, as she has to deal with putting out fires at work.  Only one problem, Emily never returns home and she’s gone missing.  Left with the fallout, Sean and Stephanie become involved and they live under the cloud of suspicions.

Stephanie is obsessed to find out about what happened to her friend, including gathering tips from her vlogger followers.  Her investigation helps uncover Emily’s obscured past, connecting her to the warped present, and puts her in a hairy crossfire. The plot twists are better experienced totally unspoiled.

There’s nothing simple about “A Simple Favor.”  Piling on bizarre turns and deliriously aware of its own outlandishness, it is a wicked whodunit.

Copyright (c) 2018. Nathalia Aryani.

Nathalia Aryani is a film columnist and has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at

Nathalia Aryani is a Rotten Tomatoes-approved film critic ( She has a movie blog, The MovieMaven ( Twitter: @the_moviemaven. She can be reached at [email protected].

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