Very Helpless & Scared
There was a moment while watching Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite (how is this nominated for Best Picture the same year as Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Bored, slaughter much?) where I had to pause and rewind the film because I was laughing so hard. I haven’t had to rewind a film since the VHS days of my pre-teen years (VHS stood for Very Helpless & Scared). It was this moment (skip to like the 45 second mark):
You’ve probably seen that clip in the trailer. I had. But there’s something about this rollercoaster of a movie that I forgot it was coming. And it’s so simple. It shouldn’t be that funny. But it is because in this one quick moment, Lanthimos and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) demonstrate what this entire film will be about. More on that in a moment.
The three leads, Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, each POSSESS the frame at various points on screen. Colman is especially electric. She can be frail and sick one moment, and then be extra AF the next, and you never blink. She is captivating.
Stone and Weisz play a constant game of anarchy in each other’s lives, and I am here for it.
"Hollywood needs to catch up to the world and the world needs to catch up to reality. And we know what the reality is."
Defining American Cinema
These three women own. They make all the decisions for the country, they manipulate each other into bending to their will, and most importantly, they define what American cinema should be: Real.
Women puke. Did you know that? And it’s not just when they’re pregnant or trying to exorcise a demon, Hollywood. Women vomit just like men do. Each of the three leads pukes in this film. The women in The Favourite enjoy sex, shoot guns for fun, and they sabotage each other by poisoning each other’s drink and then quickly getting married to usurp power while the other one falls off their horse and gets dragged away unconscious. Okay, that last one is pretty specific to this film, but it could happen. Lanthimos is forcing us to accept all of these masculine stereotypes in these three women.
The wardrobe and makeup throughout also elevate the film’s message. Nicholas Hoult’s character Robert Harley is never shown in anything other than elaborate clothing, plastered makeup, and hair upon hair upon hair.
While our three leads vary from beautiful to bloodied to literally wearing the pants.
Back to that first clip, the “How dare you!” clip. Colman is the queen, yes, so she demands obedience. But it’s more than that. She is a woman telling a young boy to acknowledge her presence, and when he does, she tells him not to. She will allow or deny him (us) to look upon her. So why did I laugh so hard? Because I just haven’t seen anything like it. The Favourite wouldn’t have been made thirty years ago. It wouldn’t have been made five years ago. Hollywood needs to catch up to the world and the world needs to catch up to reality. And we know what the reality is: