Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Favourite diabolical but convoluted

Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite (at the Main Art Theatre), tied for 10 Oscar nods along with Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma (post Jan. 22), is a strange brew of a picture. Sure, it’s dramatic, intriguing, features some of the best actresses around, and puts a diabolical combined sexual and political twist on the royal court of Britain’s Queen Anne in the early 18th century. But, just to be warned, straight history this is not. Yes, there were apparently two women in the neurotic or psychotic and physically ill monarch’s palace who may have vied for her attentions. But, any research at all about this movie will tell you that perhaps 80 per cent of it is fully made up. The director and writers are unapologetic, and I guess that’s probably fine. How many other movies take great liberties with historic facts? And when you get right down to it, who the hell really cares? From today’s perspective this is a rather obscure historical period (despite the ongoing English-French wars). Said actor Joe Alwyn (Samuel Masham) of the director, “Yorgos (The Lobster, 2015) made it quite clear early on that there wasn't going to be much consideration for historical accuracy to a degree. He wasn't too caught up with or concerned about that. He just wanted us to have fun as people and as a cast and to explore the relationships between us, which is what we did.” In reality, the film is less about history than imprinting a perhaps modern-day lesbian triangle and power struggle on three historical figures. Meanwhile, I’m surprised Olivia Colman was nominated for Best Actress since her role in the script is subsidiary to the struggle between Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) and Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz). Both Weisz and Stone are nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Both are excellent but I think Stone edges out Weisz. Stone burns with a ferocity in this picture. And, as an actress, the 30-year-old is coming into her own and developing the aura of a grand Hollywood dame. As for the story, well, okay, the palace intrigue is there with a vengeance. But the plot is somewhat convoluted though if you pay enough attention it’s enjoyable enough. On the plus side, great costumes, great sets (how could they not be since they were filmed at two British palaces?) and it’s hard to resist a fable combining sex and politics at the higher echelons of power, isn’t it?

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