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A Simple Favor 2018

A Simple Favor | A Simple Favour | Une petite faveur

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About A Simple Favor 💬

From The Darker Side of Director Paul Feig.

  • We all have secrets to hide.

A SIMPLE FAVOR, directed by Paul Feig, centers around Stephanie (Anna Kendrick), a mommy vlogger who seeks to uncover the truth behind her best friend Emily's (Blake Lively) sudden disappearance from their small town.

  • What Happened to Emily?

Stephanie is joined by Emily's husband Sean (Henry Golding) in this stylish thriller filled with twists and betrayals, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge.

''Secrets are like margarine: easy to spread, bad for the heart.''

Anna Kendrick as Stephanie Smothers

  • Can you keep a secret?

Assume nothing about the two mothers at the center of this thriller film. Surfaces may be bright and polished, but no one is what they seem. At the core of this story is an unlikely film noir protagonist - the sunny and practical suburban mommy vlogger, Stephanie. Stephanie's perky search for domestic bliss, friendship, and killer recipes accidentally lead her into a mad tangle of dirty secrets and fatal lies when she meets ultra-glamorous mom, Emily.

When Stephanie is first approached by Emily to come over for a playdate, she is intrigued. Emily is mysterious and alluring with her super-posh lifestyle: a city job in high fashion, a sexy British author husband and an impeccably modern, showcase house. Stephanie is flattered when Emily seems to quickly latch onto her as a confidante and new best friend. She appears to be the ultimate insider, and Stephanie feels like she has cracked into a world of her most extravagant mommy dreams.

  • It all started with... a simple favor

''I need a simple favor,'' Emily says one afternoon. Without hesitation, Stephanie eagerly agrees to take Emily's son, Nicky, home with her after school one day. However, simply becomes complicated when Emily disappears completely, leaving Stephanie with her son and not a single clue. Following her own ''moms, do everything yourself'' credo, Stephanie takes it upon herself, with the help of her social media followers, to find her missing friend. She has no idea just how convoluted this mystery will become as boundaries of friendship and loyalty are tested and lurid truths are unburied. Stephanie is about to enter an inky-black, nerve-wracking journey into deception, duplicity, and transgressions, including her own.


Director Paul Feig notes that the balancing act of the film - the fun, but also the psychological and social frenzy - led him into new territory, which is exactly what he wanted. ''The film is definitely funny, but it also takes you through a whole range of emotions and major twists and turns that I haven't explored before. And the opportunity to do that is all thanks to the amazing source material from Darcey Bell, the work of writer Jessica Sharzer, our incredible actors and also the talented crew who joined us to tell this story.''

For Anna Kendrick, portraying Stephanie as she applies her sparkly attitude to the most sinister of human machinations was a one-of-a-kind balancing act that she relished.

''This is a genre-bending story that has big comedy, a murder mystery, twists, turns and surprises. Stephanie is definitely one of the most optimistic characters I've ever played, but she also has a lot of blinders on - and those blinders get peeled off the hard way starting from the moment Emily disappears, which is part of the fun,'' Kendrick says.


Darcey Bell's 2017 debut novel ''A SIMPLE FAVOR'' quickly drew notice as one of that year's most addictive reads, keeping readers up late frantically turning pages. Though critics compared it to Gillian Flynn's ''Gone Girl'' novel, it also stood out as something distinctive and of-the-moment. For within its twisty web of betrayal and revenge, also lay a cutting exploration of a mommy blogger navigating the overwhelming age of modern motherhood - complete with all its fierce protectiveness, social media competitiveness, loneliness, envy and endless search for getting it absolutely perfect.

With twists, no one could see coming and the story is so cinematic, the film rights were sold before it was published. Soon after, screenwriter Jessica Sharzer began tackling the adaptation. From the start, Sharzer wanted to upend the woman-in-peril storyline that has become a staple of entertainment. Instead, she toys with our familiarity with the structure but also subverts it.

''There have been so many of these twisting tales with unreliable narrators,'' Sharzer acknowledges, ''but what I loved about Darcey's book is that it takes a different attitude. The book always has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek and that's what I most wanted to capture. I wanted the film to lean way into the genre, adding twist upon twist upon twist, but always doing it very consciously.''

If Sharzer took a playful approach to the story's breakneck narrative pace, she was also taken with the rich underlying themes. ''This is a story about the nature of secrets, how they ripple outward, informing our relationships and lives,'' she says, ''but it's also about women's choices.''

This was the theme that most inspired Sharzer, one that underpins the soaring popularity of domestic noir as a cultural phenomenon - that women are required to choose a role to play in life and also penalized for breaking out of those roles. Sharzer continues, ''I like that this story looks at how different women decide between career and children. What are the compromises we make on both sides - and what do we lose when we make them? These are conversations I have with my friends all the time. They're important conversations and I find it exciting that a thriller can speak to these ideas,'' she says. ''In Stephanie and Emily, you have two very different women - a stay-at-home mom and an ambitious career woman - who would never have been friends had it not been for their sons. I'm very interested in these distinctions and the way that women still feel forced to choose one or the other.''

To up the visual fun, Sharzer turned Stephanie from a blogger to a vlogger. While the book switches points-of-view, Sharzer made the choice to keep Stephanie as the center of the action in every scene. We then watch her as her can-do mommy persona weathers a breathless storm of suspicion, catastrophe, and psychological warfare. Sharzer's affection for Stephanie was acute. ''I love her because she's such a geek in certain ways,'' she laughs. ''She tries so hard, yet she knows she's mocked by the other mothers. Her vlog followers are really her only friends, but they're her surrogate friends. So she's lonely and she's also haunted by sins in her past, and all that has informed her desire to become the perfect mom.''

That said, cunning and high-flying badass, Emily - Stephanie's dark mirror opposite - was equally fun to write. ''Emily is so fashionable and slick, but it's also a façade. Intriguingly, both Emily and Stephanie have dark pasts, but they hide them in very different ways: Stephanie by baking healthy cookies and Emily by working in high fashion, which is all about surfaces and mystique,'' Sharzer explains.

Things moved very quickly from the moment Sharzer took on the adaptation, up to the start of production. She was especially gratified to have Feig take the helm, having loved his women-centered comedies. ''I felt so fortunate, because you can see in Paul's work that he has a real talent for tapping into what makes women funny, but never in a mean or two-dimensional way,'' she observes.

Feig had a jolting reaction to his first read of Sharzer's script. ''I remember I was in my backyard, sitting in a comfortable chair, just saying, 'Oh my God, oh my God,' as I read. That feeling honestly never left and it guided me through the entire filmmaking process.''

In Sharzer's script, Feig saw the rare opportunity to take the audience through a shift in perception. ''Women are often put in such specific boxes. This is the 'beatific wife' or this is the 'bossy bitch,' but in this film, you might think Stephanie is the 'chirpy mom' you want to make fun of, but then you start realizing maybe your perception isn't quite right. Stephanie has other sides to her and she's got all these secrets. I loved the idea that you're always having the rug pulled from under you,'' says Feig, and he latched onto that idea and ran all the way with it.

Executive producer Mike Drake (Riddick) says of Feig's approach, ''Paul had a take on the story that was anything but a straight thriller, one that brought new layers of intrigue and levity to it. Paul is so dedicated to the craft of storytelling and he's also got a very strong creative partner in the film's producer, Jessie Henderson. They both really know what they want and that is what attracted our great cast to the film.''

While Feig mined the humor that comes from Stephanie's chipper personality getting ensnared in a tangle of dark mysteries, he was also one-hundred percent committed to taking the suspense in the film to the nth degree. The whole film takes place at a pitch that can turn from a giggle to a scream on a dime.

''I love movies where you're laughing half the time, then terrified the other half,'' says Feig. ''That's a lot like life. You're often thinking, 'Is this person for real? Is there more to what I'm seeing?' In this story, all those thoughts play out.''

To make the contrasts between the scary and the funny even starker, Feig decided to shoot the film like a sun-dappled suburban comedy rather than a gritty drama, despite all the paranoia and adrenaline roiling within the story. ''In this film, thrilling things happen in the daylight rather than in darkly lit rooms,'' he notes. ''In the suburbs, there's not a lot of hiding among the white walls and bright windows. You see what's going on, at least in the open. That is what makes it so fun.''


Anna Kendrick is already known for her unique range. Even so, the role of Stephanie was something completely different for her. Stephanie might share some qualities with Kendrick, such as her exuberance and her everywoman amiability, but there is much more to the performance as Kendrick brings all at once a flair for mischievous humor, emotional complexity, and an unleashed fierceness.

For Feig, there was simply no other actor for the part. ''I love all Anna's performances, but I especially love her when she plays people who are sweet and helpful and candid - and that is Stephanie. Every time she's on screen, you just fall in love with her,'' he observes. ''And yet... she also has this really acerbic side, which is hilarious, so I knew Anna would make sure Stephanie isn't a pushover.''

He continues, ''Stephanie goes through the biggest transformation in this movie because she starts out as what we think is the perfect mom, but when she feels screwed over, that's when she starts to crack open and take on the best attributes of Emily - the drive, the ambition, the not-taking-no-for-an-answer. She becomes more skeptical of human nature and uses it to good effect. What I love in Anna's work is that, by the end of the movie, you really feel she has taken herself to a new place.''

Kendrick sunk her teeth into a woman who seems to be all about the scrumptious, the cute and the fluffy, but is suppressing a deep abyss of fears, regrets and emotions that must be confronted. Jessie Henderson says, ''Anna was really truly impressive to watch every day as she became Stephanie. She has all these amazing micro-expressions that can say so much. She's so warm that you gravitate towards her, but she carefully reveals Stephanie's inner cracks in a way that is at once nuanced and thrilling.''

It was Feig who convinced Kendrick to throw herself into the complicated role. She says that as soon as they started talking, ''I knew A SIMPLE FAVOR was going to be a genre-bending film.'' She also liked that within all that genre fluidity, the lives of women are front and center. ''Women have such layered, complicated, confusing relationships, so it's great to have a chance to really explore that in such an exciting thriller''

For Kendrick, the pleasure of playing Stephanie was digging into all that is going on beneath her happy-go-lucky, public social media persona. Kendrick notes that much as she plays at being a detective once Emily vanishes, she's also just a lonely, anxious single mom with a past she desperately wants to keep locked away. ''Stephanie is upbeat and always seeing the bright side, so she can be a little insufferable,'' Kendrick laughs. ''But I think there's also a real sadness to her because really, she's so lonely. When it comes to her relationship with Emily, she’s willing to put up with a lot of abuse because it's preferable to her loneliness. And Stephanie also wants validation from Emily. I think that's something a lot of women experience to some degree in some friendships.''

The space that Feig gave Kendrick to explore Stephanie's many nooks and crannies opened up the performance even more. ''It was so great working with Paul because he makes you feel like you can't fail,'' she says. ''You can try anything and he sees the value in it, so it's a really freeing experience.''

Another high point for Kendrick was forging that charged and complicated rapport with Blake Lively. ''In real life, Blake is so sweet, open and warm so it was amazing for me to witness her showing off her funny, dark side as Emily,'' says Kendrick.

Lively was equally excited by watching Kendrick. ''Anna can take the simplest action and make it electric. She's so charming, so smart and so elegant,'' she says. For Lively, the film was a chance to try something unexpected. ''Portraying Emily was the first time I had the chance to play a villain, which was fun and sort of delicious,'' she says.

Lively sees the story as harking back to the Golden Age of Hollywood's thrillers with their comic-tinged theatricality, but also unsettling undercurrents. ''A SIMPLE FAVOR reminded me of some of my favorite films from the past, the ones where you don't know what's going to happen up until the LAST minute,'' she says. ''I love Laura, Gaslight, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, All About Eve... A SIMPLE FAVOR pays homage to those hyper-stylized, thrilling films with a tense storyline and characters who are purposely a bit over the top.''

She continues, ''We have different iterations of ourselves that we put out into the world - our social media ''personality'' versus who we are at home, who we are at home vs who we are at work, etc. In this film, I think there's an interesting examination of that - who we are vs who we present ourselves to be. Women are nurtured to strive to maintain a certain level of perfection, whether outward or inward, but we are all imperfect and that's a conversation that's much more awesome to me than perfection. Exposing true selves is something the characters ultimately do in this film. And you love them all the more for it.''

Playing Emily meant exploring extremes of confidence and manipulation, but also of psychological turmoil. As successful and controlling as she is, Emily's life turns out to be anything but stable. ''When we first meet Emily, she's very provocative and unflappable, but then we find out she's also incredibly vulnerable,'' says Lively. ''Her personality is multifaceted. She's lived so many different -and dangerous- lives. She's like a cat. A three-piece suit wearing cat, that is.''

Lively took that feline-like slipperiness to the edge. Of her performance, Feig says, ''It was so fun to see Blake completely embrace this very, very dark character because she's always been known for playing characters you love. You get to see Blake in a way you haven't before. She pushed herself and she nailed it.''

For Lively, her deep fascination with Emily and all of her several faces went right down to collaborating on her hair, makeup and clothing - a pleasure for the renowned fashionista ''Blake is a very creative person and she brought a lot of her own ideas about how to style her character through all of the shifts in the film, from sophisticated to gritty looks,'' says Henderson.

From minute one, Lively knew how she wanted the audience to first see Emily as bold and rule-breaking, before her façade shatters and reveals a whole different persona. ''When I read the script I felt we needed to adjust Emily to give her an iconic look that wasn't in the book or screenplay. A look all the people who knew her could expect from her. This way, if she ever needed to disappear, it would make it that much easier. She's an enigma. No one ever knows what she'll do next. So if she sets up expectations, and people feel like they know her, or can predict her, then she has the freedom to change gears on a dime that much more easily. It was tricky to think of something that hadn't been done a million times. Something that was very specific to her, almost like she was a caricature of herself. I wanted a look as distinct as the look Paul Feig has created for himself in life. So then I thought, why not just dress exactly like Paul. Not the unbuttoned shirt, sexy ''female'' version. The buttoned-up, three-piece suit, bow tie, pocket square, cufflink wearing version. I wanted to play against the tropes of female sexuality. Because I believe that you don't have to show skin all the time to portray sexuality. That comes from within. The intensity of the character gives all of that, skin or no skin. Then when you see pops of skin here and there, it makes it that much more shocking and voyeuristic feeling. It's that much more potent. And she knows it. It's all about power with her - how she wields her power over others and toys with them. She's such a fun character.''

For executive producer Mike Drake, the push-and-pull between Lively and Kendrick made the script come to life in ways no one could have imagined. ''There was so much great stuff for both of these actors to really bite into with this story. I think you can see how much they each loved being able to explore the different facets of their characters, letting the audience find the truth,'' he sums up.

A Simple Favor Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Paul Feig

Writing Credits

Jessica Sharzer (Screenplay)

Darcey Bell (Based upon the novel by)


Anna Kendrick

Blake Lively

Henry Golding

Andrew Rannells

Linda Cardellini

Jean Smart

Roger Dunn

Rupert Friend

Eric Johnson

Dustin Milligan

Bashir Salahuddin

Joshua Satine

Ian Ho

Aparna Nancherla

Kelly McCormack

Glenda Braganza

Danielle Bourgon

Lila Yee

Gia Sandhu

Melissa O'Neil

Olivia Sandoval

Music by

Theodore Shapiro

Cinematography by

John Schwartzman

Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Countries: United States, Canada

A Simple Favor Official Trailer

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