So I finally got to see The Favourite. As with most Yorgos Lanthimos films, the trailer is not an accurate representation of the tone of the film. Although perhaps this one comes the closest. The movie is a dark comedy but not the laugh-a-minute type the trailer hints at. I was in a fairly packed theater and there were few laughs. Perhaps because the trailer spoils several of the better ones. Perhaps because it was a Wednesday night.
While I was entertained and the movie engaged me until the end, I'm having trouble reconciling why it is showing up on so many Top 10/year end/best of the year lists. I will concede it was better than I expected, the three female performances at the center of it are solid, and it's probably Lanthimos' most accessible film. I would rather watch this a second time than The Lobster or The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
I do think that which character you end up rooting for says a lot about you. Whether the more rational Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) or the more emotion driven Abigail (Emma Stone) is your avatar, you will probably find yourself choosing a side. It is debatable as to which one really is the Queen's favourite and which one if either comes out on top in the end. The movie lends itself to deep thought and discussion upon these points. However, if the filmmaker is making any points about current politics or drawing any parallels to, say, Trump, I don't really see them other than that the leader is a buffoon.
I found myself concerned for Abigail and wanting her to attain a high enough status that she might be safe. Only to be shocked to watch her become as cruel as those who used to prey on her from both the upper and lower classes. While one might argue it is Abigail's movie, that she is the protagonist, I could easily see a disciple of Ayn Rand or a political conservative siding with Lady Sarah.
I sat dumbfounded through the end credits, feeling, as I had predicted, disgusted at what human beings are capable of doing to each other. But not in the "I want to go out and be a better person now" way. No, just in a hopeless way, wondering what the point of the last two hours had been.
In high school and college, I usually had to read novels twice to get the subtext amd symbolism while my classmates were only reading them once. This may have been due to my undiagnosed ADD. It may be that a second viewing of this film would open up more nuance for me. But I'd rather not. Because like Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), I get to play favorites too. And I maintain that there have been more important and more enjoyable films in 2018. Four off the top of my head: The Hate U Give, Disobedience, Sorry to Bother You, and The Front Runner. All have affected me and stayed with me long after I left the theater. The Favourite doesn't hold a candle to these films and simply doesn't deserve a place at the table.