The Favourite

The Favourite ★★★★

Because of whatever my whole neurological situation is, I often experience this weird angst about how all movies seem to be about the petty familiar dramas of *people*. Like jesus christ, isn't there anything more interesting to say? What about the violent lives and deaths of microfauna, or the epic dramas of continental drift or atom splitting? How can it be that we're just saying the same things about the same people experiencing love and greed or whatever over and over again, when we're using the most complex artistic medium known to man? Yes, of course, I know that people make and relate to art that they...er, relate to, as people, but I still find myself craving that something extra. (And that something extra cannot be as anthro-friendly as Morgan Freeman intoning condescendingly about penguins, so don't try that shit with me!)

This is why I really like Yorgos Lanthimos: He makes dramas about communities, not about individuals. In DOGTOOTH, it's a family living under the weird new rules necessitated by their belief in an apocalyptic event outside their home. In ALPS, it's a cult of professional mourners, in which even the most rebellious member's ambition is to leave for the similarly strictured world of competitive sports. THE LOBSTER may be the cultiest of them all, with its fascistic control over the totemic formalization of a person's not-so-unique essence. KILLING OF A SCARED DEER may be less obvious, but I defy you to watch that movie and tell me it isn't about the rules and regulations of a rather intense nuclear family, versus those imposed by an interloping patriarch. That is where the drama typically comes in for Lanthimos; He isn't interested so much in the hero's journey, in which personality wins out over conformity. He's interested in the arbitrariness of social architecture, and the drama that ensues when an opposing force blows in to try to change its internal logic. On its face, THE FAVOURITE is the least outrageous of Lanthimos' dark social satires, and yet, Queen Anne's court is a perfect setting for his usual project. What could be more bizarre and alien than the environs, the dress, the mannerisms, the preposterous communal rituals, the extreme formality of 1700s royalty? The action here is not so much a war of wills between individuals, but the stratagems those individuals use to alter the consensus reality for the nation. When Rachel Weisz, representing the military establishment, admonishes hedonist Emma Stone "We are playing very different games," it tells the whole tale about this movie--a movie that seems to want to invent the genre "body politic horror".

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