Reel librarian cameo in ‘A Simple Favor’ (2018)

The reel librarian does return the (research) favor

It often happens that I’m watching a movie, and — surprise! — a reel librarian pops up, with no warning or foreshadowing, in a library scene. Once you start noticing reel librarians, you find that we turn up EVERYWHERE. And this is what happened when one night, my husband and I decided to watch A Simple Favor (2018), a black comedy starring Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively and directed by Paul Feig.

What’s ‘A Simple Favor’ all about?

If you’re unfamiliar with this film, here’s the write-up from IMDb.com:

Stephanie [Anna Kendrick] is a single mother with a parenting vlog who befriends Emily [Blake Lively], a secretive upper-class woman who has a child at the same elementary school. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself to investigate.

IMDb.com plot summary for ‘A Simple Favor’ (2018)

And here’s a trailer for the film:

“A SIMPLE FAVOR Official Trailer NEW (2018) – Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively Thriller” video uploaded by FilmIsNow Movie Trailers, 2018, Standard YouTube license

This trailer does capture the film’s mix of quirky, awkward humor; Blake Lively’s awesome wardrobe (Anne Kendrick is ALL OF US in the way she stares at Lively gliding through the rain in that pinstriped suit and fedora); and its brightly lit take on film noir. Do the most mysterious things actually happen in broad daylight? It’s an intriguing film, to be sure!

*MILD SPOILERS BELOW*

Reference interview with the reel librarian

About 1 hr and 20 minutes into this 2-hour film, Stephanie is digging into Emily’s past. During this journey, she goes to a local library to research past news articles.

Stephanie visits a local library to ask for past news article in A Simple Favor
Research need? Next stop, library!

We next see a closeup of the reel librarian, an older white lady with glasses and dressed in a floral button-front shirt and dark cardigan. (Love the extra detail of the name tag!) Corinne Conley plays the role of Librarian.

Reel librarian cameo in A Simple Favor (2018)
Reel librarian cameo in A Simple Favor (2018)

Here’s their reference interview exchange:

Stephanie: Hello!

Librarian: What do you want, cupcake?

Stephanie: I’m looking for all the Wayne County arson-related news items for the last 20 years.

We next see Stephanie at a desk, scrolling through news articles on a microfilm reader. And success! She finds what she’s looking for.

Researching past news articles on microfilm in A Simple Favor (2018)
Researching past news articles on microfilm

Although this scene lasts only 20 seconds, this was clearly a very successful reference interview. Therefore, the reel librarian does return the (research) favor in A Simple Favor!

This kind of scene exemplifies a standard kind of library research scene. The main character needs a clue or bit of information to propel the plot forward. And who can quickly supply information that will be trusted by the audience? A librarian, of course! 😀 In that way, this reel librarian serves as your basic Information Provider.

As the reel librarian is only onscreen for a few seconds, this film lands in the Class IV category, films in which the librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue.

“What do you want, cupcake?”

The most interesting part of this reel librarian cameo was in the reel librarian’s one line of dialog. She doesn’t ask the standard opening question of “How can I help you?,” but a rather more brusque version with “What do you want?” She also calls Stephanie “cupcake” — not “dear” or “miss” — but the quite juvenile (patronizing? sexist?) word “cupcake.” On paper, I would argue this comes off sounding quite rude and unprofessional. But does that feeling change when the line is spoken by a sweet-looking “old lady librarian”? The juxtaposition is intriguing.

This line just feels off, not quite true to what an actual librarian would say. And that’s indicative of this film in a nutshell; everything is just a bit off, a bit heightened, in a way that makes you question your own reactions. And in that sense, this short — one might even say throwaway — exchange is just right for this film.

Your thoughts?

Have you seen A Simple Favor (2018)? If you’re a librarian, would you ever say, “What do you want, cupcake?” to a library patron? Please leave a comment and share!

Sources used

Author: Jennifer

Librarian, blogger, movie lover

3 thoughts on “Reel librarian cameo in ‘A Simple Favor’ (2018)”

  1. Would love to say ‘What do you want cupcake?’… but sadly don’t think I could quite get away with it! Not even when I worked at a uni library!

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