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Five Cent Cine (At Home): The Favourite

All women, most of the time

The trailer markets “The Favourite” as British court farce, with clips of lavishly dressed scene-eaters. Ever-challenging director Yorgos Lanthimos, however, turns the genre on its head, no doubt disappointing those who thought they would see a period “Fawlty Towers.” The straightforward plot pits a trusted but manipulative counselor to a monarch against a younger and even more manipulative upstart.

Lanthimos upends the period drama by giving all the major roles to women.

Lanthimos upends the period drama by giving all the major roles to women. The men are irrelevant stereotypes; the political, emotional and even sexual dramas are all among the women. Olivia Colman has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar as the neurotic and needy Queen. Rachel Weisz (“My Cousin Rachel”) as her ensconced counselor with her own political agenda and Emma Stone as the cruel and narcissistic –“I’m in this for me”—challenger (a far cry from her “La La Land” role), have both been nominated for Best Supporting Actress. If there were an Oscar for Best Ensemble, these three women would be “favourites.”

Unlike in typical British farce, Lanthimos plumbs the emotional and psychological depths of his three main characters, offering indelible portraits: the female monarch makes her bedroom a warren for a herd of rabbits who stand in for the 17 babies she lost; the political conniver aims to keep Britain at war with France, playing politics à la Margaret Thatcher; and the schemer, who is pushed from a carriage into the mud, marking her fall from royalty and grace, returns with a vengeance.

Lanthimos sometimes has an obscenely grotesque, over-the-top sensibility (“Killing of a Sacred Deer,” 2017). Here he harnesses his peculiar talents to produce a more accessible —yet at the same time unique —result.

Availability: For rent or purchase on multiple sites, including Amazon Prime, RedBox, Vudu, Fandango; see JustWatch here.

Date: 2018

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone.

Oscars: Won: Best Actress (Olivia Colman); Nominated: Best Original Screenplay (Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara); Best Achievement in Production Design (Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton); Best Achievement in Costume Design (Sandy Powell); Best Motion Picture of the Year (Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday, Yorgos Lanthimos); Best Achievement in Directing (Yorgos Lanthimos); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Rachel Weisz); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Emma Stone); Best Achievement in Cinematography (Robbie Ryan); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Yorgos Mavropsaridis).

Other Awards: Nominated for 330 total, won 185.

The Favourite ★★★ 1/2 (out of 4 stars)

Runtime: 119 minutes

This review was published 2.1.19

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Written by 2 Film Critics

2 Film Critics

William Graebner is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York, Fredonia, where he taught courses on film and American culture. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 50 scholarly articles, including essays on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and zombie films as they relate to the Holocaust. Dianne Bennett, the first woman to head a large U.S. law firm, is a retired U.S. tax lawyer.

Dianne and Bill were early and passionate attendees at the Toronto Film Festival, and today enjoy the film scenes of Los Angeles, Rome, London, and Buffalo, New York. They began reviewing films for the Rome-based website “TheAmerican/inItalia” in 2016, have maintained a blog on Rome for a decade, and published two alternative guidebooks to the Eternal City. They still can’t resist going to the movies, not to mention the ensuing discussions, sometimes heated, over a bottle of Arneis at the nearest wine bar.

​And that's just the beginning of our reviewing process. For one or two hours we discuss the film, as one of us takes notes. The notetaker transcribes the notes and prints two copies. Dianne or Bill (usually depending on who had the most compelling understanding of the film, or who was most taken with it) writes the first draft of the review--supposedly taking into account the views of the other--which is followed by 3, 4, or even 7 more drafts. At some point, sometimes days later, when we're both comfortable with the result (or accepting of it, anyway), it's done.

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