Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Running time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
MPAA rating: R
by Rosalie Kicks, Old Sport
“Who’s your favourite* uncle, Rosie?”
This is a question that I have been incessantly asked from the age of consciousness until present day. With my mother being the eldest of four brothers, it probably comes as no surprise that this inquiry wore out its welcome. Even as a young child, what always fascinated me was the relentless commitment to a question that they already knew the answer to: YOU.
It feels good to be the favourite. It makes you feel special to know that out of all the rest, you are, simply put, THE best. Being the favourite means you can get away with things (murder...maybe?). You always get the corner piece of cake, with all the icing. You are privy to all secrets and even get to meet those skeletons in the closet. You’re always first...until you’re not.
In director Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest feature, he may have put down the pen and given the writing responsibilities to someone else, however, his expected brand of eccentric and original filmmaking is still present. From duck races, to rabbit children to unconventional dancing, this story set in 18th century England is anything but a bore. I will confidently say, it is one of my most favourite flicks of the year.
Having recently read the script and re-watched Joseph Mankiewicz’s film, All About Eve, I could not help but notice the similarities to The Favourite. For those that haven’t seen All About Eve, the film stars Bette Davis (Margot) and Anne Baxter (Eve). After an impromptu meeting with the young actress Eve, the aging starlet Margot decides to befriend her and take Eve on as her assistant. Unbeknownst to Margot is that she has allowed the fox into the hen house. Margot learns that Eve is more than just an undying fan. Eve is a ruthless manipulator, with one goal...to be Margot.
Although The Favourite is not centered around actors or show biz and is set in a completely different era, the two stories are still quite comparable. If you were to group them in a family, one would probably say The Favourite was the rebel. This mainly due to its unique storytelling, snarky delivery and provocative mood. The interactions between Margot and Eve seem tame compared to those shared by Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone) as they are competing for the Queen’s (Olivia Colman) affection. To put it frankly, both films have teeth, but The Favourite isn’t afraid to bite.
From the moment Abigail unexpectedly arrives at the castle that her cousin, Lady Sarah, serves as a close friend/confidant to Queen Anne, it is difficult to miss the the fire in her eyes. Abigail comes off as charming, but for those that are familiar with Eve, we have seen this play out before. This woman is on a mission and nothing will stand in her way, not even family. She is prepared to do whatever it takes to never find herself in the mud (literally) ever again.
One of the greatest aspects of this film is not only are the women characters the most interesting and complex, but they are the ones with all the brains. Meanwhile, the dudes are racing ducks and throwing rotten fruit at one another for sport. These intriguing characters, along with beautiful production design, beguiling music and costumes are a wonderful reminder to go to the cinema.
Lady Sarah is portrayed as a no-nonsense, blunt and intelligent woman. Abigail, she may be conniving but, is always seven to ten steps ahead of everyone else. She is smart. The character does not rely on anyone but herself to fix her situation. She may use people to reach her end goal, but she is clever enough to not let them know.
Something that still fascinates me (wellllll, besides the poison and use of a fisheye lens) about this movie is when Lady Sarah asks Abigail, “You think you’ve won.” Initially, I took this statement as literal, Abigail came out on top. However, now, I can’t help but wonder, if being the favourite is not really all it is cracked up to be? Sarah’s interactions and relationship with the Queen were not due to a competitive nature. She wasn’t trying to win her over. Sarah was who she was. She did what she did out of love and admiration. As Lady Sarah says, “love has limits”. Abigail’s relationship was built on lies and therefore the love is limitless.
*Please note, I now spell it this way, because this movie is YES.