The Favourite (Ire-UK-US, 2018)

Not

The Favourite seemed to be a good way to start cinema-going this year as it had been on many ‘best of’ lists. Then again, so was Phantom Thread. It irritates me when people declare a film to be ‘rubbish’ as if their view trumps all others; though it can be a nuisance to append ‘I think’ throughout. But that’s what they mean: ‘I think it’s rubbish’, as I do The Favourite. It’s rating is over 8.1 on imdb and has received rave reviews so I am, as far as you can objectively get in matters of opinion, wrong.

The cast is great, the set and costume design exemplary and the cinematography (apart from the use of fisheye lenses) marvellous. So I’m guessing my problem is with the director, Yorgos Lanthimos. I liked neither Dogtooth (Kynodontas, Greece, 2009) or The Lobster (Ire-UK-Greece-France-Netherlands, 2015) despite their interesting premises. It’s difficult to pin down what it is about Lanthimos’ filmmaking that I don’t like but I think he is an ‘arch’ filmmaker in that he keeps a distance between himself and his material. In The Favourite this is evident by the use of ‘comedy’ (it’s labelled as such but I rarely found it funny), much of which seemed to be sourced from the swearing we are not accustomed to associating with royalty or the upper classes. The fact that Olivia Coleman’s Queen Anne says ‘fuck’ didn’t raise a chuckle within me and there’s some slapstick comedy, but not much. Lanthimos, and/or his scriptwriters, seem uncertain about how to portray the material, hence there’s a lack of commitment evident in my eyes.

More damningly, the film ignores the historical significance of the time; or at least assumes knowledge in the audience (which I don’t have). So the parlaying for influence in Parliament, which becomes the motivation for positioning themselves as Anne’s ‘favourite’, is fairly meaningless.

Not a good start to the year… but things can only get better?

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