The Favourite

The Favourite ★★★★

ok so, three perfectly cast heroines here.

emma stone as abigail is a brilliant move because emma stone is so inherently likeable. she’s been the plucky newcomer before, so i’m inclined to trust her in that role, and it isn’t until too late that rachel weisz and i realize just how self-serving she is. she isn’t villainized for it, which makes her more interesting; we understand her traumatic past and her need for safety, and unlike rachel weisz and nicholas hoult’s characters, her motivations aren’t political. the extent of her innocence is uncertain, but ultimately insignificant. what matters is that she ensures that by the end of the movie, not a single character gets what they want--not even her.

rachel weisz as sarah is a brilliant move because i want her to marry me! this review should just read: rachel weisz with those cheekbones and that ponytail and that riding outfit. just kidding, but also not, hi rachel, call me anytime. she’s alternately steely and vulnerable, icy and warm. favourite (ha) moments: when she turns the gun on emma stone, that cold rage the only sign of how scared she is. when she starts throwing the books in the library, which is the closest we see her to coming unhinged. the little smile as she tells her husband she’d love to get out of the country. the scene where she tells the queen that her honesty is proof of her love, which is what it took for me to realize, wait, this is fucked up but she kind of does love the queen.

i don’t have as much to say about olivia colman as queen anne, but i do want to say she nailed it. i felt pity for her grief and frailty, revulsion at her simpleness--even fear at her instability in the moment she struggles to hold a baby. that performance is where a lot of the movie’s power comes from, for me.

with its luxurious sets and costumes, the movie has all the trappings of your typical courtly period piece, and there’s nothing necessarily subtle about the way the movie satirizes that. the dance scene with joe alwyn and rachel weisz is about as extra as it gets. but it eschews easy targets (period drama repression, the indignity of this particular monarch) for real ones (the self-importance of men, the indignity of the monarchy). in doing so, it avoids the smugness i often despise in satire, although it’s almost as cynical as they come.

movies it reminded me of: the handmaiden (for the lesbians, intrigue, and irreverent humor, though it lacks the handmaiden’s deep sincerity), love & friendship (for the period comedy and playfulness, though the favourite has more intensity and vulnerability).