The Favourite (2018) More aggravating than entertaining

Image result for the favourite images
I’m just an idiot standing around with no purpose looking like Tom Cruise.

I love historical dramas. It had all the ingredients of fine entertainment. Instead, I scratched my head with bewilderment at the end of it. Fellow-bloggers liked it a lot and many gave it high marks. But for me, I felt more aggravated than satisfied. Be my guest and disagree. Spoiler-alert! 

The Favourite (2018)  

A dark comedy? Yes. Did I leave the theater utterly depressed? Yes. For some, adding modernity to the early 1700s narrative makes Yorgos Lanthimosis‘s latest effort absurd. (The modern dancing, the overuse of the “C” word) is a time warp that doesn’t work. Absurd? No. Incongruent and jarring?Yes. Was the tone of his film to show the ludicrous lifestyle of the nobility? If so, he succeeded. Was his goal to show class-conflict and reveal the sordid details behind the curtains of Queen Anne’s bed? To illustrate an atypical love triangle between two female cousins whose ambition are Machiavellian? He succeeded. On the surface, it seems like a winner. So why was I turned off by the two cousins who battled to win the Queen’s favor, hence, ensure the power of court affairs and financial stability?

It has something to do with a trend in the entertainment industry. Hail to the stories of women who are strong and resourceful. Yes. But I feel there’s an exaggeration taking place at the expense of men. More films than ever showcase women as corrupt, aggressive, and savage while men are utter idiots. In The Favourite, for example, the scene where the naked man dances to avoid being hit by oranges by the rest of the men in the room. Whenever you have a black and white situation — all men are ridiculous and useless — or women are sex toys or dumb blondes– you’ve reached the same level, the basement. While I enjoy the actors Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, I found their characters repugnant and could not root for either one. Eventually, I became bored.

As far as cinematography, I thought the ultra-wide fisheye lens shots clever and in line with absurdism. The final scene was outstanding with the rabbits. She who steps on the rabbits is stepped on by the foot of the queen. Trapped and caged, all players in the love-triangle lose. The best reason to see The Favourite is for the outstanding acting job by Olivia Colman as Queen Anne of Britain. So while I can see how one could make a case for its virtues, overall, it’s not a film I would ever watch again. 3.0

57 thoughts on “The Favourite (2018) More aggravating than entertaining

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  1. I have been eagerly anticipating this film as an irreverent historical romp. I have seen lots of previews, and it has been featured heavily on TV here, with excerpts. I liked the stylish touches, like the fish eye lens, and the action into camera. I thought the costume and design looked sumptuous. The casting seemed to be perfect, even though Olivia Coleman is desperately over-used here, on TV dramas and comedies. (She is literally in EVERYTHING worth watching.)

    But I haven’t seen the film, and even thought of pre-ordering the DVD, as it is not showing anywhere close to where I live. However, your review is the first ‘bad’ review I have read. (Everyone else here seems to adore the film) So I am worried, because I respect your judgement in such things. (Glossing over Cruise and DiCaprio. 🙂 ) I will have to wait to watch it, and let you know what I think. As an historical aside, there was a great deal of swearing in the ‘old days’, especially by the upper classes. It was only the Victorians who frowned upon it, and made it into the ‘bad language’ of today.

    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. You would love it because it makes the nobility look ridiculous. I thought of you when I watched it. It is scathing. I didn’t know about Colman. I am not surprised–she has that face that could be any number of the British monarchy. I loved her performance.
      I know absurd films are supposed to be ridiculous, but it grated on me. And the over-arching message is damaging.
      I am sure I am in the minority.
      Maybe if I had been drunk when I watched it, I would have laughed…..

      1. Olivia has played everything. From a put-upon single mum, to a world-weary detective. At present, she is playing a bawdy innkeeper’s wife, in the rather wonderful BBC adaptation of Les Miserables. She has played the awful step-mother of a depressive, in the brilliant ‘Fleabag’ on the BBC, as well as her various roles as politicians, lawyers, doctors, and betrayed wives. As I said, she is everywhere.
        And the so-called nobilty are ridiculous.. The very concept of them is such. 🙂 x
        I will be watching it with your words of warning foremost in my mind.

      1. I believe they did. Along with Quim, Gash, and Cunny, This is quite an interesting article.
        View at Medium.com
        Whether or not it is appropriate in a mainstream film is questionable. It is used widely in ‘gritty’ films here, especially those set in London. I suspect the film-maker used it for shock value in this film. x

        1. Your link didn’t open for me. I was just wondering if because a male wrote the script he was using a term that he supposed women used regularly in the 1700s. I don’t know women today who call each other that. Sigh. Maybe I’m just old fashioned now.

          1. It is still considered to be the ‘worst ‘ word used here. Though it is mainly used by men, to insult other men. I have heard women call other women that, usually when they have been treated exceptionally badly, or betrayed in love by a woman they knew. People will often apologise, in advance of using it. As in, “I am sorry, but I have to say that he/she is a complete ****. It often comes with the addition of ‘Total’, as in ‘Total ****’. I have no idea why. 🙂

            The linked article that won’t open traces the word back to Hindu mythology, (Kunti) its use in Chaucer and Shakespeare, and the Scottish derivation of ‘Cunny’, which used to mean a soft baby rabbit. Their early version of ‘Pussy’.
            I think its use in a film set in the 18th century is historically acceptable and accurate, but perhaps not tasteful, or necessary.
            Best wishes, Pete. x

          2. I thank you for the lesson. I wouldn’t want to presume. I think part of the film is,set in realism which then gets confused when the absurdism is added. I presume he wanted to connect the past with the present to make it accessible to audiences today. Crass is crass. I get that. As I said, I suspect you will love it.

  2. My wife and I completely agree! We had a trajectory of extreme high at the beginning – really eager to like it, then an ongoing depressing deflation into ponderous, unlikeable characters and plot that fell apart for us…what a disappointment!

  3. I have to say, this is my favourite film of the year, Cindy. I loved the dark humour, the beautiful cinematography and the perfectly judged performances. It all worked for me. I had a blast with this one.

    1. I read your review! And as we usually agree and I respect your judgement, I went to it thinking I would love it.
      Rachel became wooden for me. Emma became ugly. I liked her character in the beginning, but then she turned ugly. Wooden and ugly lost my interest.
      I went with my son and he fell asleep three times. Ha!
      I did like the cinematography…

      1. It was the ugliness of all the characters that caught my attention. The interplay between their ugliness was the real draw. I can understand some not taking to it but it worked for me.

  4. As I think you know I’m with you Cindy. I struggled mightily with this movie. I liked the performances but found little else I enjoyed. I just hard time finding entertainment in the non-stop bitterness. I just never connected with it like so many others did.

  5. I had seen the preview for this and though I like the Cast I wasn’t drawn to see it. I get what you say about about modern affections in a Period Piece. It really doesn’t work and takes you out of any immersion. Strangely I had just watched a recent episode of Star Trek Discovery where and Alien character was using phrases and slang we would only expect of us Earthlings. Yhat didn’t work either. To me it amounted to poor Writing.
    I love Period Pieces too and had just seen Mary Queen of Scots which I thought was better that it’s Ratings. Good acting with again mainly female leads. Guy Pearce does a nice job in his role too.

    1. JC, well said. I have been wanting to see Mary Queen of Scots but I would have to drive a good distance to see it. I suspect I will have to rent it.
      It will be interesting to see what is nominated today for the Oscars.

  6. “I felt more aggravated than satisfied” Oh my, I’m so glad you feel this way too Cindy!! I feel like EVERYONE loves this movie, including The Academy, it’s got 10 nominations! I thought the score was really distracting and the editing was just odd. I also agree that the point about egregious ridicule of the men (esp that orange-throwing scene), it’s just too much. I do think the performances of the three actresses were terrific, even if it’s really hard to root for any of them.

  7. I have not seen the film yet, but you wrote a great review 🙂 By the way you wrote it, it sounds like you would have been happier If both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz characters were killed off entirely 🙂 Anyway, keep up the great work as always 🙂

  8. I really enjoyed reading your viewpoint, and I do understand your feeling about the film. I am a bit of a Lanthimos fan, but I went to see this film being sceptical about it. It turned out to be the best film of 2019 for me, and I enjoyed it hugely. I actually thought that the exaggeration you refer to was the point of the whole movie. Lanthimos is the director to shock, to unsettle…to even displease. These are his trademarks and the story works as this completely overblown satire.

    1. Hi! I’m glad you liked it. I enjoyed The Lobster but not so much his other films. Absurd is tricky. The exaggeration worked for you (and many others). I did appreciate the cinematography. I did like the rabbits and the ending shot. I thought Olivia Colman’s performance was the best thing about the film. The crude elements left a bad taste in my mouth. 😉

      1. Yes, the three performances elevated this film, and some sequences are too distasteful. But nothing which is not in line with Lanthimos, of course. It is interesting that you mentioned the ending, because I thought the last fifteen minutes or so of the film plus the ending were the weakest. I wanted the ending to be somehow more resolute, convincing, straightforward, maybe 🙂

        1. I thought the ending was quite clever and artistic. I loved the rabbits and what they represented. Yes, they were the Queen’s 17 children. But when Abigail steps on the one and makes it squeal because she could and then to have that follow with her crawling to the Queen and she steps on her head–Abigail realized she was trapped. She was merely a pet. The tie in with the wedding night with Abigail disengaged while performing her duty and then at the end she she is doing the same to the queen–she is a toy, a pet, a source of immediate comfort but never does Abigail acquire the freedom that she supposes being a “favourite” guarantees. She realizes she in a precarious state expecially after Sarah Churchill has been banished. The Queen looks off, obviously damaged by her situation–she’s caged and her situation always precarious. All three women experience this. There’s a line that Sarah delivers to Abigail -“Oh, God, you think you’ve won!”
          No one wins.
          Except, I’d say, Sarah,though while she is not in court and banished, at least she is free from the drama of the court.
          The absurdity of it all is what Lanthimos was revealing. I understand why you like it.
          The ending was one of the best parts of the film for me and just as it should have ended.

  9. I walked in expecting a serious drama and what I got was a history lesson that was about as accurate as Monty Python and the Holy Grail………I LOVED it. I understand your critique. It is bizarre. It could’be gone either way for me but the writing, acting and the sheer craft at which this was assembled was beyond compare.

    1. Thank you Mark for your thoughts. I remember reading your blog and your high marks. As far as craft goes, I concur with the ending sequence. There are other times I was dazzled. It will be interesting to see if Colman gets an Oscar. I have a feeling since everything is so political these days, I expect a token Oscar to go to Glenn Close because of her record of nominations, a pseudo lifetime achievement award.

  10. Yorgos Lanthimos is an acquired taste, I think. The Killing of a Sacred Deer is my favorite movie of 2017, yet there were many reports of people walking out of the theater. I also loved The Lobster and Dogtooth. I haven’t seen The Favourite yet, but I think Lanthimos is one of the most interesting filmmakers working together. He wants you to feel uncomfortable, and that’s a brave thing to do. He reminds me of Michael Haneke (Amour, Funny Games), another director who tends to make people angry and frustrated.

    1. I like Michael Haneke- especially Amour and The White Ribbon. I enjoyed The Lobster.
      I do believe you are right in saying he’s an acquired taste. If I had put filters up acknowleding I was about to watch absurdism, I wonder if I would have liked it more. Prepare yourself, you know?
      Should you? I suppose we do that. Like when I go in to see a Marvel comic film, I don’t expect anything other than style over substance.

  11. I enjoyed your review and I see your point. While I agree with what you’re saying I have to admit I quite liked the film. To each their own, always interesting to stand out from the popular opinion. 🙂

  12. Glad you didn’t like it; I loved it, but don’t trust any work of art that is universally praised. The things that you never hear a bad word about have merely captured the zeitgeist, and will be forgotten in a few years.

    The most interesting thing about the film is that, if you look beyond the anachronistic modern dialogue, it is actually quite historically accurate, certainly more so than the more earnest Mary Queen of Scots.

    As far as Eric’s comparison to Michael Haneke, I can see where he is coming from, but think Haneke is more of a provocateur like Lars von Trier and Werner Herzog, Lanthimos is just an Auteur looking for his style.

    1. I’m so glad you stopped by to share your thoughts and I think you are on to something. I don’t try to ripple the water when everyone seems to like something, but I was annoyed. But maybe it was my mood at the time. I have been talking to bloggers in this post and as time goes by I do understand the art in it and that Lanthimos is a budding Auteur.
      That said, I found mary Queen of Scots, which was very traditional, flawed, too. I did love Saoirse Ronan’s performance.

    1. Hi, Bill. Oh, good we agree on the script. I did, however, like Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. Did you see Mary Queen of Scots? I thought the acting of Saoirse Ronoan was exceptional. Margot Robbie as Queen E was well played, too. That script was confused and boring, but the acting, quite engaging. Saoirse can do no wrong in my eyes.

      1. mary queen of scots was exceptional. it was the first feature frim oe of the national theatre directors. john ford did an earlier version of the story, and although ford is my favorite director, i didnt care for his mary. this remake is much better. the exteriors reminded me of david leans ryans daughter, I loved Saoirse in this, on chesil beach and brooklyn, but in her work with poor directors has been poor, lady bird and the seagull are recent examples,

        1. I remember you saying that when she works with inferior directors, it shows. I think she elevates the film, even if it’s not very good. But yes, I’m glad we agree about Mary Queen of Scots. The best acting female duo in recent memory. I didn’t care for the muddled script at the last half of the film, but the exterior shots and all the glam of costumes that come with a historical picture was superior in this.

          Speaking of Margot Robbie, I heard about the filming of Tarantino’s new Hollywood 70s film starring Pitt and DiCaprio and Margot Robbie plays Sharon Tate.
          I know how you feel about Tarantino, but I admit, I’m somewhat curious. I truly loved Pulp Fiction and wonder if this will have a pulpy feel.

          1. I figured you ranked him low enough not to warrant a response. But, I hadn’t heard from you in awhile, so braved the question.
            I like a few of his films, and then I think his time passed.

            Did you like A Star is Born? What did you think of Roma?

          2. i like the first half of a star is born very much. once lady gaga turned into lady gaga and bradley cooper went from eddie vedder to jeff bridges, it took a turn for the ridicuous. i watched it twice, and rewatched the other three versions as well. it was so muc better than the wholly incompetent bohemin rhapsody… it reminded me a lot of once, right down to the oscar win acceptence performance. im glad green room took the oscar, but viggo should have one the acting award. and glenn close should hav taken best actress.

          3. Hey! I felt exactly the same way about A Star is Born. First half sincere and touching. Then I lost interest.
            I agree on Glenn Close. A quiet, engaging film.
            Viggo – loved him; we share the same feelings regarding his acting.

          4. i just watched the judy garland a star is born yet again. and realized new york new york was close to a remake of it the difference was that the deniro character was ever famous in the first place and didnt kill himself at the end. the extraneous dance sequence with liza minelli reminded me of all the hrrible choreography in the garland movie. what pathetic dance numbers.

          5. Ah, I hadn’t thought of that before–New York, New York as a quazi Star is Born. I love NY NY.
            I think Judy Garland wins hands down with best voice ever. Bypassing Streisand (2nd) and Gaga limping way behind. I don’t know what all the fuss is about with her. Her high notes are airy and she’s jarring when she switches to alto. I cringe when she sings.

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