“The Favourite”: Queens are People Too

Fricken Lanthimos.

I went to see this movie fully prepared to thoroughly hate it. Despite all the Oscar nominations and blurbs praising it on the posters I expected to be disgusted, repulsed by it, to walk out from the cinema and never look back at Mr Lanthimos, whom I couldn’t wait to put on a “directors I don’t need to pay attention to anymore” shelve right between Mr von Trier and Gaspar Noe.

But no, I wasn’t given this opportunity this time. Because this movie is good. Mostly because it’s about people. Actual human beings (as opposed to “Lobster”, and I really, REALLY hated “Lobster”), no matter if they’re a servant, a lady or even a queen – they’re human beings through and through (and played wonderfully by all three main actresses). People who love, hate, work, play, plot, react, are jealous or empathetic. Ones you grow to like despite how disgusting they act, or dislike despite how charming they are. I found myself rooting for the wrong character halfway into the movie. This movie, above all things, is about love and how different it may look to different people, and therefore how hard it can sometimes be to recognize for what it truly it (and is not).

It’s also a very deliberately an ugly movie. Much like “The Love Witch” – another movie about powerful women where men are essentially useless – is highly stylized to be breathtakingly beautiful, this is in contrast to other costume movies very dark, muddy, almost sepia-toned, but let’s be honest – that’s how people lived in these times. Expecting brightly lit interiors and beautiful dresses on aristocratic balls is unrealistic. “The Favourite” shows these times and places for what they truly were: dimly lit, stinking, dirty with mud, excrement, vomit and occasionally blood. And withing this ugliness, underneath this disgusting exteriors are people who might seem repulsive but have genuine feelings towards each other.

The ending – without spoiling anything – left me with a little dissatisfaction, although after some consideration I realized it was perfect as it was. It’s not that the ending was “Inception”-style ambiguous, rather that I was really interested what would happen next. But it’s good that I wasn’t given a straight answer, because it’s entirely possible to extrapolate from what we’ve seen with all the information we were given about the characters, and the extrapolated effect is for me quite cathartic indeed.

Well, Mr Lanthimos, I guess we’ll see each other again after all.

You can read this and other reviews on my Letterboxd profile.

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