Saturday, 26 January 2019

The Favourite (15)

The plan today was a simple one — finish off the 2018 top 10 lists, and then finally get bang-up-to-date by pontificating about The Favourite.

Then the internet happened and we got accused of being racist for liking Black Panther and saying positive things about BlacKkKlansman (that'll teach us to read the comments).

I mean, really? Us? We've seen loads of Samuel L. Jackson films. We own a Jimi Hendrix album. How could we be racist?*

Sometimes humans really worry us.

Anyhoo, onwards. Olivia Coleman is a mad queen and we need to be talking about THAT far more than some white person (we're guessing) telling us racism isn't an issue any more.

Because with a cast of Coleman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, and all of the Oscar buzz around their performances, this was going to be a cracker.

And it is. In places.

But man does this film have flaws.

At its core, The Favourite is a political drama, with Weisz's Duchess of Marlborough manipulating Coleman's Queen Anne in order to govern the country to her husband's benefit, and those of her political allies.

Thrown into the mix is Stone's Abigail, cousin to the Duchess and now fallen on hard times.

She decides to start working her way back to the top of the social pile by worming her way into the Queen's favour by any means necessary.

All of which is good stuff.


While a film with three strong female leads is always welcomed,  it would make those characters stand out even more if the supporting cast were also strong.

Instead, Nicholas Hoult and James Smith are left with very little to play with and so are reduced to nothing more than foppish caricatures.

(We will stress at this point, given idiots are out in force, that this is not to say the men should have better roles so don't even bloody go there — it is an issue with the writing, in that these characters are not well drawn and lack depth. Now behave and go have a biscuit.)

The film has some nice comic touches (mainly involving Stone) and Coleman steals every scene she's in, but behind that the film has problems.

Aside from the poor characterisation, there's the score.

Dubbed the Gout Theme, there is a really grating noise used for reasons — possibly to show how uncomfortable Queen Anne is at that point — that only serve to really wind up the audience.

It's use later serves even less of a purpose but does annoy even more.

Then there's the random use of a fish-eye lens.

I get that Yorgos Lanthimos likes to play with convention (he is, after all, the man who brought us The Lobster), but when the effect is to make those staring at the big screen feel seasick we think it's fair to say it hasn't quite worked.

If such tricks and tropes served any real purpose than it would be so much better, but the overwhelming feeling is that it is all affectation — attempts to play with the genre just for the sake of it.

We've had bawdy period pieces before, we've had endless swearing before — we've probably not had a naked Tory being pelted with fruit before, but have you ever watched a film and felt that was something that was missing?

Probably not.

Overall, The Favourite is a cracking idea that falls somewhat short on the big screen.

The central performances are cracking, but then they have to be because there isn't a lot going on underneath the surface.

Rabbits were nice, though...

*This review contains an element of sarcasm and satire because that person's post REALLY made the eyes roll and led to lots of muttering.

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