The Favourite (2018)
November 29, 2018 6:25 AM - Subscribe

In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead. When a new servant Abigail arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.
posted by everybody had matching towels (36 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
All three leads were great, but please just give Olivia Coleman the Oscar right now.
posted by doctornecessiter at 7:02 AM on November 29, 2018 [14 favorites]

The trailer makes this seem like a movie meant to fill the Toast-shaped void in my heart. I haven't gotten to see it yet, but I am so excited for when I do.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:16 AM on November 29, 2018 [5 favorites]

I absolutely loved this movie. The dialogue! The dance scene! Rachel Wiesz in those shooting outfits!

My friend found it a bit too weird for her tastes, but, you know, it's Lanthimos.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:16 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I also enjoyed the way this movie seemed, at different times, like very many different types of movies. The scene where Emma Stone is getting a book and trying to quietly sneak down with it had me on edge the way a good horror movie does. That was the entirety of The Quiet Place boiled down to two minutes. Olivia Coleman's portrayal of the queen managed to skate between comedy and Oscar-worthy tragedy so that you were never sure quite what you were watching. And then there was also what I would consider romance, although I think the degree of it is one of those things that we'll be talking about for a while. My friend and I had very different interpretations of those motives of Abigail and Sarah.

My partner said, "it was not a very subtle movie," but I disagree. Looking back, I can see how they toyed with my perceptions of the characters. They seemed to flip between villain and hero in my mind over the course of the film. Take Harley, for instance, for whom I felt such revulsion at the beginning. He's no better or worse a man at the end, but my perception changed. He's trying to make political change during the reign of a fickle monarch. Even if I don't like him, by the end I at least sympathize with him. I am sure I will be reflecting on this movie more as it settles itself in my mind.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:28 AM on November 29, 2018 [9 favorites]

As soon as Nicholas Hoult and Rachel Weisz were in a scene together (as pretty much age-peers) near the beginning, it occurred to me that they had been in About A Boy together and I was nervous that they might try to establish some kind of sexual chemistry here, which would have weirded me out so I'm glad it didn't go that way. I'm all for younger man-older woman hook-ups in movies, but just not when I've seen her basically play his sort-of "stepmom" in another movie when he was like 12.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:39 AM on November 29, 2018 [4 favorites]

I saw it. Eh. I didn't hate it. But I didn't love it either. Why am I so unimpressed with critical darlings the older I get?

The good news: there were great character moments (especially earlier in the film) that had me on the edge of my seat.

The bad news: However, I felt my attention dissolving over the course of the movie and I fought the urge to turn on my phone to check the time.

The good news: the costumes were really good despite the overly stylized fabrics.

The bad news: But by the end of the movie I was sooooo bored with black and white gowns, and I never want to see a stomacher with polka dots again.

More bad news: I also found the fish-eye lenses and anachronistic touches distracting rather than charming. It kept me from being absorbed into the movie, and it reminded me I was watching A YORGOS LANTHIMOS FILM!!!

The good news: the acting was very good.

The bad news: it didn't have much of a plot and it ended with a pointless shot of kaleidoscopic bunnies, exactly like the cover of Sparks' Young Lovers album.

I didn't hate it, but ultimately it seemed so pointless. It looked like it was going into an interesting direction at the beginning, but all the characters ended up being hateful and there were no meaningful arcs. Abigail's ambition leaves her twisted and dissipated! Sarah ends up proud but alone. Anne ends up alone-er. It felt trite to me and not very interesting.

posted by suburbanbeatnik at 11:26 PM on November 30, 2018 [8 favorites]

I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, but I have to agree with suburbanbeatnik about finding the kaleidoscoep end image an odd choice. The three leads were all fantastic and complicated. Olivia Coleman as the queen really blew me away.

My friend and I were debating whether Abigail was honest when she offered to end the feud once she was married. I thought she might be, but he didn't agree.

Loved, Loved, Loved the costumes, locations and ridiculous dance sequences.

I've never seen a Yorgos Lanthimos film before, so I'll have to check his other ones out.
posted by Julnyes at 8:16 AM on December 4, 2018

I finally saw this this afternoon. I loved the first hour and a half and then got incredibly antsy. This is what happened when I saw the Lobster. Yorgos needs to work on his endings.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:41 PM on December 31, 2018

Saw it last night.

I think my best attempt at a review would be to say that I think it should haul a majority of awards for: costumes, set design, audio editing (man oh man the agitating score was on point), acting (esp. to Coleman and Hoult, but all of them), and cinematography, while simultaneously not being a movie I'd recommend.

I have a question: Was Sarah anticipating being deported? That was the one point I felt really confused as to what was being conveyed. She was looking out at the military arriving and I had the impression they were trying to make her look like she knew it was coming.

That scene paired with Abigail figuring out in the final scene she had not, in fact, won, make for an interesting narrative, but I don't see how Lady Marlborough could have concocted something that complex to achieve "victory".

Follow-up Q: If deportation wasn't an intended outcome, was the Marlborough embezzlement real or created by Abigail?
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:35 PM on January 2, 2019 [3 favorites]

This section of the Queen Anne wikipedia page discusses her possible illnesses. Summary: probably one of Lupus, Hughes Syndrome, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Possible others include diabetes, listeria. After seeing the movie I was suggesting Syphilis, but wikipedia says nope.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:42 PM on January 2, 2019

I loved this so much but I immediately realized that not everyone will. During the credits, my wife and I were still laughing and having pantomime duck races with our hands and the women in front of us turned around and said "you liked this? It was terrible."

For being a pretty brutal movie about ruthless humans, it's the funniest movie I've seen in while.
posted by octothorpe at 9:14 PM on January 4, 2019 [10 favorites]

As soon as Nicholas Hoult and Rachel Weisz were in a scene together (as pretty much age-peers) near the beginning, it occurred to me that they had been in About A Boy together

When he sat down on the couch with the duck guy and made comment on the duck, I laughed out loud. Still a little mad they didn't have him chuck something at the duck but I'll get over it.

Everyone else in my criminally underfilled theater appeared to hate this. But I also consider The Lobster a rom com and a great date movie, so I get where others' MMV.

I adored this. I just asked a question on the green a few days ago for movies with unlikable women in the starring roles, and boy did this deliver. Everyone was just the worst and totally repellant and I loved them all.
posted by phunniemee at 12:41 PM on January 5, 2019 [2 favorites]

I thought it was great. And thank god for a movie that didn't tiptoe around the relationships and portray them as just "super good friends". (Looking at YOU, Wikipedia.)
posted by kyrademon at 12:54 PM on January 5, 2019 [3 favorites]

I don’t think Sarah anticipated being deported. She saw the military, knew that meant very bad news for them, and in classic British stiff upper lip style suggested Britain was losing its charm and that it might be time to go abroad. Likely a bit late once the guards are at the door, but if they are put under house arrest or something they may be able to flee.

It wasn’t clear to me whether the embezzlement was real or created by abagail.
posted by jeoc at 1:16 PM on January 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

On the one hand, I would expect it to be a given in that situation that whoever is doing the books is embezzling. On the other hand, in the case of Sarah, she really has no need to embezzle. Although I can see her tilting payouts towards her political causes and away from the opposition.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:45 AM on January 7, 2019

Historically, the charges were, probably, pretty much trumped up. It is notable, for example, that Malborough's successor in his post received "the same allowances that had been lately voted criminal [by the Tory-dominated Parliament] in the Duke of Marlborough" as soon as he took command.
posted by kyrademon at 2:34 PM on January 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

My interpretation was that Abigail was lying about the books, and that's why she walked away from that encounter yelling "fuck" - given the queen's insistence that Sarah wouldn't do that, she thought she'd overplayed her hand and was about to be got rid of.

My friend and I were debating whether Abigail was honest when she offered to end the feud once she was married.

I think she was being honest in the moment - I think her stated goal, that she wanted to be "safe," was in fact her real one, and the safest thing for her at that point was to no longer be in a fight with one of the few people still powerful enough to endanger her. Especially given that from the way she talked with her husband about the poison, her intent was not so much to cause any physical harm to Sarah as it was to just take her off the board for a couple days so she could further secure her position with the queen. But I also think that even if Sarah had sincerely agreed, Abigail would have soon enough decided that she was still a threat and then it'd be game on again. Basically, I think she was always ready to hurt people if it furthered her goals, but hurting people was never really a goal in and of itself.

I loved this movie, but I would like to understand what drove the choice of when to use the fisheye - I couldn't figure out any sort of thematic thread that tied those scenes together.
posted by solotoro at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

I can't find the quote but the director said that the fisheye lens were inspired by the convex mirrors that you see in the paintings from that era.
posted by octothorpe at 11:49 AM on January 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

We saw this last night and all three of us loved it. My wife and I had not seen a Yorgos movie before and didn't know what to expect, but the friend we saw it with had and he definitely enjoyed watching us watch the movie.

(Side note: I think there were a few people there last night who saw the trailer and thought "oh, nice period piece, nice costumes, nice music, we'll go see that, it will be nice" and then got ridiculous cut throat same-sex love triangle and weren't sure what to say. We got to the part where the Queen dropped the mic about relations between her and Abigail, and the three of us just fell out, and no one else reacted at all.)

Other this that and the other:

- I said to my wife last night that it was nice to see a movie for once where the men were the props. Not that anyone should be a prop, but if that's how it is, turning the trope was interesting.
- I also really appreciated that it was like, nope, these women are sleeping together and it is not even a big deal. I cannot recall the last time I saw a movie that was so matter of fact about same-sex relations (within the confines of the time period that it was in). More of this please.
- I'm not a film person, so I don't normally say things like this, but the cinematography was so nice. Abigail's face during the library scene... that was so well done.
- I don't normally do movies where none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, but this one played with us just enough about who was "good" and who was "bad", and in the end, I was fine with "messy people sometimes do horrible things". I felt bad for the Queen - I think she might have loved both of them, or at least felt deep affection for both, and it's not like you can go back in time and hand people a copy of The Ethical Slut or More than Two or something. And I don't think Sarah was -bad- in the end, necessarily, she just had her priorities in strict order and didn't understand that sometimes, telling your lover they look like a badger is unnecessary (I have a friend much like Sarah and don't always know what to do with her either).

We really enjoyed it, I feel like I should be having big think-y thoughts this morning, but I can't quite pin them down, it was just so much movie. I feel a lot like I did after mid-90s - wow, that was a lot, wow, I loved it, wow, I can't word other than wow.
posted by joycehealy at 6:15 AM on January 20, 2019 [11 favorites]

Oh! I knew there was something else. I deeply, deeply appreciated that while the movie acknowledged the existence of rape and sexual assault as part of the times and part of being a woman during that time, the movie didn't actually show it (except at the end, maybe? That was ambiguous). I was tense for the first little while until I realized that probably wasn't going to happen, and really appreciated the omission.
posted by joycehealy at 6:25 AM on January 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

The end of the film, explained
posted by pxe2000 at 6:48 AM on January 28, 2019 [7 favorites]

just catching this, loving it
posted by mwhybark at 8:58 PM on February 4, 2019

What a great commentary on love and the many faces it can wear. Oh, Anne's boredom unto death at the end of the movie to have been forced to be a top, Abigail knowing nothing of love, and Sarah gambling love against her ego and losing everything.

Marc Maron is interviewing Yorgos Lanthimos on tomorrow's episode of WTF, y'all.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 2:05 PM on February 6, 2019

Just saw this and enjoyed it, mostly because of the performances which are wonderful. The rabbits were a great touch to make a lengthy history tangible.
posted by harriet vane at 7:32 AM on February 16, 2019

I don't normally like period dramas, but the profanity and queerness sold me on it! It was a slow moving film with super interesting cinematography and I loved it.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:04 AM on February 16, 2019

Loved: the rabbits, ducks and unfortunate lobsters. All the lady actors and their costumes. Hard agree with joycehealy that the men are largely props and that is, unto itself, delightful in a period piece.
Hated: The aggressively abysmal soundtrack. Queen Anne is known a great patron of Handel, and yet music drives her insane in this movie? That combined with just sheer grating minimalist bullshit of violin and piano strokes for minutes upon minutes is a little too much to bear. (nb. I love all Handel, and that he wasn't used more liberally throughout for soundtracking just suggests to me that no one did their research, dude can dirge as well as he can gigue, and boy can he gigue) It just seems that there was an acute underutilization of music and sound that were actually available at the time that these real actual people were living, or thereabouts.
mehddleing: I understood the rabbits at the end, but was just not satisfied by it. The screenwriters may feel constrained by history, but I yearned for something snappier. While I can watch Emma Stone's eyes for minutes at a time without a qualm, this was not a great ending.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:55 PM on February 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Saw this yesterday and generally enjoyed it, apart from the horrible music. I can see why they didn't go with Handel (too obvious, too traditionally period-movie), but but most of the choices here seemed to be a bit lazy, especially that bloody plinky piano. I loved the the fact that it had three whole women placed firmly centre-stage, the costumes, indoor wildlife and that it was a historical film that wasn't about the sodding Tudors.

I was most struck though by the resemblances to The Draughtsman's Contract; same period and similar stylised fashion and cast of unlikeable conniving characters, but with less humour or human feeling and much better music (if you like Michael Nyman). I haven't actually seen it in years, but will be watching it again as soon as I can dig out the DVD I'm pretty sure I still have.
posted by Fuchsoid at 3:48 PM on February 19, 2019

music drives her insane in this movie?

Not the music, which she was visibly enjoying, but the fact that it is being played by children, which she cannot have.

I loved this film, but I'm not clear on what Sarah Churchill's scheme was throughout. I get the sense that we are, in the end, supposed to consider her an honest broker, and so perhaps she really was just pursuing what she thought best for England, no matter the personal cost, and was bullying an incompetent queen to get her way. Maybe that's all there was. But her motives were elusive and she was presented as a conniving characters, so it's hard for me not to feel there were ulterior motivations that I just never grasped.
posted by maxsparber at 9:26 AM on February 21, 2019 [2 favorites]

Ah, thank you maxsparver for clarifying, and dearticulating, what i'd perceived. I had conflated the dance scene, culminating with Queen Anne freaking out and requiring special attention from Lady Marlborough with the string quartet. I'd read it as the throughline being her anathametic response to music, whereas it's really a response to the performers.
still the single note plinky soundtrack sucked a whole ton. I'll just re-iterate that Handel can do some surprising things for you, when you get into him, and the score was irritatingly lazy, otherwise.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 7:31 PM on February 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

I just saw it last night and loved it. From the previews it seemed to me that it was going to be a broad comedy (not being familiar with the director) so the actual...dramaturgy was a delightful revelation. Loved the anachronisms. I did have the google for an explanation of the ending though. Not Sarah's ending, I'd read a biography of her long ago so I was only confused by the lack of reference to Blenheim. Just a really interesting, unusual film.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:16 AM on February 23, 2019

I turned to my wife during this and said "Isn't it amazing that back then you could have a King or Queen that was such an absolute child, so completely venal, uneducated, and easily manipulated... back then... not like in our own... Oh."
posted by xammerboy at 2:25 PM on March 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Sarah's motives were elusive and she was presented as a conniving character, so it's hard for me not to feel there were ulterior motivations that I just never grasped.

I got the sense that every character in the movie believed they had good reasons for their scheming behavior but that they were really driven by their own selfish needs, and perhaps even a perverse joy in inflicting pain.

The degree to which Sarah's motivation for manipulating the queen into promoting war was based on some honest desire to protect England rather than promote her husband's career is questionable. The degree to which the wig-wearing ambassador sued for peace was for England's benefit or his own pocketbook's was questionable.

There were a lot of open questions like this in the movie, but I feel the ending somewhat answered the question as to the motivations driving all the characters. Abigail is not a simply a victim pushed to monstrous behavior by her circumstances. Her behavior with the rabbit shows her to be pathological.

Who is an honest broker, and how is one to know? I guess you can't, but you would be a fool to remove self-interest from the equation. I found this movie to be an incredibly dark, funny, relevant meditation on the human condition.
posted by xammerboy at 2:55 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Just seen it, excellent film thank god, because had I realised it was Lanthimos directing I would not have. I had to stop watching The Lobster after about 15 minutes because it started reminding me of Dog Tooth so I checked for the director and - no. But having the story coincide with some historical facts has made the cynicism in The Favourite seem not so gratuitous imo. I have no difficulty believing the 17/18 century was a harsh and desperate time, or that corruption was an expected and accepted part of public life.

However, of other less developed places I've been in, I bet if an 18C crowd caught an 18C bloke wanking at young women in public, they'd have stoned him.

Colman and Weisz in particular gave stunning performances, and Weisz was dashing. Emma Stone had less to do than they did since her story was basically less nuanced. Lanthimos is very good at misery and stuckness and Coleman delivered there too. Poor Queen Anne.

No plot??? Oh, only all about love and power, being human and growing old.
posted by glasseyes at 12:15 PM on March 19, 2019 [1 favorite]

Damn. Poor woman. A person of courage and taste.
posted by glasseyes at 12:41 PM on March 19, 2019

This was an amazing movie and we loved every minute of it.

The constant change in visual tone and depth of field and wide-narrow angle kept it thrilling, along with the spectacularly beautiful sets, costumes and lighting.

the performances were off scale. as tofu_crouton said above, rachel weisz in a shooting outfit!
posted by lalochezia at 7:52 AM on March 23, 2019

Well that was more lurid, abusive, and straightforward than I was expecting.

Me, just before the ending: "Well the director certainly cut down on animal symbolism."

I bet if an 18C crowd caught an 18C bloke wanking at young women in public, they'd have stoned him.

It could be the film incidentally showing that people ARE angry about the war. Abigail is fallen nobility, but she's still nobility, and so maybe others will look the other way if a soldier (iirc) wanks at her, or if the servants pick on her extra harsh. Or it could just be background nastiness.
posted by fleacircus at 11:10 PM on May 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

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