A Simple Favor (Movie) Ending Explained

This post includes an explanation about the ending of the 2018 film “A Simple Favor”.

Directed by Paul Feig, the 2018 mystery comedy is based on a novel of the same name written by Darcey Bell. The film stars Anna Kendrick as Stephanie Smothers and Blake Lively as Emily Nelson. Today’s post is solely based on the film, not the novel. Beware of spoilers.

“A Simple Favor” tells the story of a single mother (Stephanie Smothers) who goes looking for her missing friend (Emily Nelson). After reporting her friend’s disappearance to the police, they finally find Emily. Stephanie and Sean (Emily’s husband) are devastated by the sight of her lifeless body found in a lake faraway from home.

Plot Twist: Emily is not dead. Also, her real name is Hope McLanden and she has an identical sister (Faith McLanden). Many years ago, the twins plotted to kill their strict father by setting their own house on fire. After committing arson, the twins split up to cover their tracks. They never see each other again until Faith unexpectedly shows up in Hope’s life.

What Is Going On In “The Simple Favor”?

The mysterious beauty (Emily Nelson) in this story actually has a lot of skeletons in her closet. Not only has Emily faked her own death, but she also killed her own twin sister. In order to deceive the authorities and the insurance company, Emily used Faith’s lifeless body as proof of her “death”.

Who is Emily Nelson?

As mentioned before, her birth name is Hope Mclanden. Ever since splitting from her twin sister Faith Mclanden, Hope has assumed different identities when she meets different people.

When Hope was with the painter (Diana Hyland), the latter only knew her as Claudia. After their breakup, Hope meets Sean Townsend. Her current husband has no clue about Hope’s troubled past because he only knows her as Emily Nelson.

There is also another reason why Hope keeps changing her name and that would be her sister (Faith). The latter has always been the “black sheep” of the family. Although, Hope is a ruthless pathological liar, Faith is far more dangerous than her.

Hope and Faith’s Relationship

The idea of setting the house on fire actually came from Faith, not Hope. After their initial split, the twins actually agreed to meet up again. However, Faith never kept her part of the bargain as she became a drug addict. The only time Faith thought about reaching out to her sister again was when she was in need of money.

Faith’s addiction to drugs ruined her life. She has no qualms about ruining her sister’s new life just to finance her “lifestyle”. When Faith finally tracked down Hope, she did hesitate to blackmail her sister. The troubled sister wanted Hope to give her a large amount of money in exchange for her “silence”. Otherwise, she would expose Hope’s past to her husband.

Unwilling to let Faith take away the life she has built, Hope decides to kill her sister. As a result, she lures Faith to the lake and drowns her on the spot. Faith’s lifeless body later becomes part of Hope’s plan to claim payment from the insurance company.

The Ending of “The Simple Favor” Explained

The ending of “The Simple Favor” reveals that Stephanie and Sean have been working together to gather evidence against Emily. Although the latter unplugged all the microphones planted in the house, Stephanie still had one hidden camera on her. She used it to record Emily shooting Sean and confessing to her crimes. Shortly after, the police arrive and arrest Emily.

So, it seems that Stephanie changed her mind and decided to “spare” Sean. Initially, Emily and she were trying to frame Sean for the way he treated them. On one hand, Stephanie was angry at Sean for dismissing their relationship in front of his wife. On the other hand, Emily didn’t like that Sean got over her so easily. Shortly after the funeral, Sean was already sleeping with her best friend, which shows his unfaithful nature.

As part of the plan to frame Sean for domestic abuse and insurance fraud, Emily hits herself in the face. After reporting the self-inflicted injuries to the police, they arrest Sean. Shortly after, the press paints Sean as an abusive and greedy husband. A man who forced his own wife to fake her death so he could collect money from her life insurance.

Somewhere in the midst of getting payback, Stephanie decides to side with Sean again. They both decide that Emily is too dangerous to be wandering the streets as a regular individual. Therefore, they take matters into their own hands. In order to get a confession out of Emily, they perform a little “show” in front of her.

Unfortunately for Stephanie and Sean, Emily was already one step ahead of them. Despite crying during the fake shooting scene, Emily knew that it was all a set-up. Also, she disabled the microphones that the police previously planted in the house. That’s why she was so comfortable spilling the “beans”. However, this time, Stephanie outsmarted Emily. The single mother had an extra hidden camera on her blouse live streaming the whole thing.

After Emily’s arrest, Sean moves to another city and writes another successful novel. As for Stephanie, she is now a famous vlogger and a part-time private detective. Last but not least, it seems that Emily has adjusted to her new life in prison pretty well.

Final Thoughts

I thought that “A Simple Favor” was a very fun watch. However, there is only one thing about the film that irks me and that would be the ending. You see, I believe that a “baddie” like Emily Nelson deserved better.

Everyone is a bit messed up in “A Simple Favor”. I don’t think there is anyone in this story with a higher moral background that allows them to judge others.

Let’s start with Stephanie Smothers. There is more than meets the eye regarding the single mother who is trying to make ends meet. This woman harbours a dark secret, she slept with her half brother (Chris). Wait, that’s not even the worst part: her husband found out about it. Although the film never shows the fight between the two men, it hints that the tragic incident was not accidental. It seems that the husband killed Chris out of anger.

Then, there is Sean Townsend. He is actually a very charming man, but that doesn’t make him necessarily innocent. First of all, who sleeps with another woman moments after holding his “beloved” wife’s funeral? Not only that, but he also invites his late wife’s best friend to live with him shortly after. Personally, I saw it as a major red flag. What are women to Sean? I still can’t get over the fact that Sean moves on so quickly…

Last but not least, there is Emily Nelson. She is a compulsive liar, a murderer and a master manipulator. Despite all the bad things about her, I still don’t think she is the worst person in “A Simple Favor”.

First of all, Emily killed Faith because she was trying to extort her and ruin her life. Second, the woman faked her own death to get a big fat check from the insurance company. Although committing fraud is a big “no-no”, Emily did it for her kid and her husband. It’s no secret that the couple’s financial situation wasn’t the best, despite outward appearances. Third, I think she had every right to taunt Stephanie. How dare this woman call herself a friend when she is sleeping with Emily’s husband?

Having said that, I feel Emily Nelson deserved better than 20 years in jail. Nonetheless, I also believe that Blake Lively heavily influenced my opinion about the character. The actress’ formidable performance made Emily Nelson an iconic baddie. Someone that the viewer should be hating but doesn’t. Once again, despite Emily Nelson’s numerous personality flaws, I do not despise her.