By Brooke Hill | News Editor
A Simple Favor was Darcey Bell’s first ever novel, and she was incredibly lucky that someone bought the movie rights to this book. Not only was the book converted into a movie, but the movie features A-list actresses Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick in the lead roles. The movie premieres Friday, but the book, published in March 2017, lowered my excitement about seeing the movie (possible spoiler alerts ahead).
This is the story about two typical suburban moms who are murderous and make victims of each other. The book begins with a series of posts from mommy-blogger Stephanie Smothers asking her followers to help locate her missing best friend, Emily Nelson. Emily has the perfect life — she’s the head of PR for a major fashion company in New York City and has a hunky British husband, Sean. Glamorous Emily is everything that widowed, simple Stephanie isn’t.
Emily and Stephanie’s sons, Nicky and Miles, are best friends, and the moms met and became best friends through their sons’ friendship. While Stephanie pours all of her effort and energy into the friendship, it seems obvious from the beginning that Emily is using the friendship for an ulterior motive. Why would this perfect, upscale woman want to be besties with a mommy blogger?
Emily asked Stephanie to watch Nicky one night and never returned to get him, which alarmed Stephanie because Emily is a very reliable mother who would never leave her son without prior notice. She misses her friend, but before too long, the police announce they’ve found Emily’s body. Slowly but surely, Stephanie begins to take over Emily’s life and her roles as wife and mother. She convinces herself that she’s doing the right thing by taking over her friend’s life, but really, she just loves the idea of having easy access to a family lifestyle again.
As Nicky becomes more hostile about his mother leaving, he suddenly announces that his mother visited him at school one day. This begins a downward spiral in which the characters begin to question if Emily is actually dead. Stephanie goes snooping around in Emily’s past and discovers clues that might mean Emily is alive after all.
What does this mean? Does Sean know? What does this mean for Stephanie?
What truly makes the plot interesting is Stephanie’s dual-nature. Emily is fully aware of how evil and manipulative she is, but Stephanie struggles with discovering what her own true character is. Stephanie has a dark past and she’s more than willing to confess to Emily to get it off of her chest, but then tries to spend the rest of her life making up for it. Emily’s inherent evilness brings back this side of Stephanie, who is almost infatuated with Emily. Stephanie quite literally can’t say no to Emily, nor does she want to, even when Emily’s demands have serious legal consequences.
Although Stephanie’s character is the most dense part of the novel, it’s also the most annoying. Stephanie has a tendency to believe whatever Emily tells her, even when she’s proven to be a creepy stalker and liar who definitely shouldn’t be trusted. By the end of the novel, Emily gets what she wants and has framed all of the poor innocent people. I was frustrated with the ending, and I’m intrigued to see if the movie changes up the plot a bit.
I didn’t like that the most in-depth character had the most annoying personality. Stephanie’s complex character was practically ruined by her naivety; it was very hard to believe that anyone could really be so trusting of a psycho. I loved how confident Emily was in her craziness — she knew that something was wrong with her, and she embraced it.
It’s evident just from the movie trailer that there will be a few differences from the book — for example, Stephanie is a mommy vlogger instead of blogger, which adds a more personal touch to her internet following. There also appears to be a character who doesn’t appear in the books, and Emily’s character says some lines to make her have more of a “shock” factor than her character in the book. While the book is typically better than the movie, hopefully this movie will spice things up a bit and make things a little less predictable than the book did.