Almost Mine - The Favourite
Like every other Yorgos Lanthimos outing, I am conflicted about this. I respect it very much and even liked it quite a bit, but there is something that holds me back from loving it. Its technical merits are unquestioned, its performances are top-notch and the screenplay is one of the more inventive puzzles you’re likely to encounter. It is about as satisfying as you can get for a costumed period piece with an undercurrent of the politics of war. That said, it takes a little while to get going and is utterly self-indulgent in spots. It is very proud of what it is, which is one of the year’s very best movies that just might miss you with its narrow brand of humor and somewhat inaccessible narrative.
The film opens with talk of the war between France and England, with a feeble-minded Queen Ann (played by Olivia Colman) on the throne and Lady Marlborough (played by Rachel Weisz) in her ear helping to make major decisions. All is well until Lady Marlborough’s cousin, Abigail (played by Emma Stone), shows up and starts to curry favor with Queen Ann and edge out Lady Marlborough and the influence she usually wields.
As their rivalry grows, the two take grander and grander retaliatory actions in an effort to eliminate the other from Ann’s good graces. All of this is taking place as Ann is plagued by illness, the country’s politics are marred by war and a literal cavalcade of characters move in and out of the story to complicate things. It’s full of surprises, chuckles and the never-ending feelings that everything is about to come off the rails.
As I watched the first half of the movie, I was put off by the confidence that I eventually learned to accept. There was something about it that suggested it thought it was funnier than it actually was. That uncertainty eventually waned and gave way to some of the better comedic moments I’ve seen this year, but be warned that this is a particular brand of comedy. It is raunchy, but smart; low-brow, but wry. It is truly unlike anything else you’ve seen lately.
The place the narrative shines is that you have never seen women interact this way on screen. They have all the power and the men in the narrative are largely doing their best to siphon off as much of that power as they can by bending to the whims of the women. The women also take turns being equal parts loving and vicious toward one another in a Rubik’s Cube of a story that keeps taking on different faces.
The strongest element of the movie comes in the form of the production design and cinematography. The film is a looker. Every frame could be a Victorian-era painting, which when juxtaposed with bawdy on-screen events, makes for something different. This is not your grandmother’s Oscar fare. This is, in true Lanthimos fashion, a movie that establishes a world in Act I and then spends the rest of the movie pulling at threads until the world changes.
Like a complicated knit, it takes a while to see the movie take shape, but once it does, it is definitely impressive. Whether or not you’ll be entertained however, depends on your personal brand of humor.
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