Saturday, 23 February 2019

Film Review No. 47 The Favourite (15+)

Strong Points:
Great production design
Interesting camera shots
Good acting from all
Great casting
Some bits of humour
Original story
Characters constantly change status, including in the minds of the audience
Lots of subtext in dialogue

Weak Points:
Some odd camera shots
Some odd plot choices
Gratuitous with language and sex

Some spoilers below:

In-depth Review:
The Favourite, at first glance, could be mistaken for a classic period drama, what with it's setting, costumes and story about royal upset. In actuality, this film has more similarity to films such as The Death of Stalin, using the period setting to tell a story of satire, subtext and dark comedy.

Power is the name of the game in this film, with each character jostling for just a piece of Queen Anne's. Firstly, we have Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz, a manipulative aide to Anne and a lifelong 'friend' to her. We also have Sarah's cousin, Abigail, played by Emma Stone, another manipulative aide to Anne. Basically, everyone is manipulative and scheming and no-one can trust anyone, except for perhaps the rabbits.

Colman, who plays Queen Anne, absolutely revels in the absurdity and madness of the film. She screams, cries and shows at least three different thought trails on her face at any one time. Seeing just how much (or little) of the manipulation from her two aids she's actually aware of was an interesting thing to witness, as I still don't really know if she was in power or not during the film.

Weisz and Stone also play their parts excellently, with each half of the film letting one of the actors come into their own. The first half is Weisz's film, where she has the power and can control and deceive anyone she chooses. For this reason, I sympathised with Stone's character, until of course, the scales are tipped. Suddenly, I'm rooting for Weisz as Stone's character reveals just how far she's willing to go. The constant back and forth is absorbing to watch, until, near the end, it stops and we are left with a victor slightly abruptly. Of course, this was planned to give us one of the oddest ending scenes in recent memory, but at the time it felt quite sudden.

The supporting cast all do their jobs well, from Hoult's flowery and dark Harley to Mark Gatiss's calm acceptance of the facts as Churchill, wife to Sarah. These characters do verge on the stereotype sometimes, as they don't have nearly the screen time of the main trio and have to resort more to filling roles in the story than being full-blown characters, but they are entertaining, cringe-worthy and shocking all the same.

The Favourite is a comedy, as much as Lady Bird and the aforementioned Death of Stalin are. You will probably laugh at the incredulousness of the situations rather than any punchlines or wordplay. That's not to say that's a bad thing, just a different type of comedy - and one I'm seeing more and more films and theatre veer into recently. I did laugh at multiple points, and I'd suggest not watching too many trailers as they often have the jokes that have the broadest appeal.

Now, comedy is all well and good, but sometimes The Favourite resorted to less clever and more shocking tactics to emit a laugh. This can work - look at Deadpool and some stand-up comedians as an example. However, normally, the joke is quick and used once then we move on. A 2-minute sequence about throwing fruit at a nude man and the plentiful use of the C-word isn't quite the same and after the initial shock value, they seemed out of place.

The visual style of The Favourite is interesting mostly because it is noticeable. Normally, camera shots and angles are set up in a way to promote a fly on the wall mentality - even 'off the wall' and absurdist comedies rarely show the camera as an integral part of the show. Now, The Favourite doesn't go as far as to get characters to move the camera, but it does do some interesting things with it, notably using a fish-eye lens and at one point having the camera move around as if floating while the characters were stationary. Now, I personally liked the inclusion of these setups (especially the first time, much like the comedy) but it does remove you slightly from the film at points. Whether that was the point remains to be seen.

Conclusion: I can appreciate the craft of this movie. It was well made, and each moment carefully executed. I can even say I enjoyed it, although not to the degree of some of the more blockbustery films out there. And yes, even though I'm a film reviewer, I can say that.

Rating: 72%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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