"The Favourite" Excerpt
Adam: Olivia Coleman as the beleaguered queen. Rachel Weisz as her ruthless, but most trusted friend and adviser, Lady Sarah. And Emma Stone as the interloping viper, Abigail. And just when I thought last week's conversation about "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," had exhausted the need to come up with a more synonyms for cynicism, we have "The Favourite," a film with a decidedly lower body count than "Scruggs," with regard to onscreen casualties anyway, but arguably even a more acetic view of human nature. Nobody in Queen Anne's early 18th century court gets shot in the back by a rival, as we see in the Coen's Old West – though a rifle may not-so-accidentally get fired in one's general direction to deliver a pointed message during an otherwise elegant afternoon of pigeon shooting. And even the lowliest kitchen helper with no power or political agenda to angle for is more likely to connive to inflict pain or embarrassment than spare a moment of compassion for a new servant.
So Josh, who did you find the most redeemable in this basket of deplorables? Or perhaps who did you find the most entertainingly irredeemable? Coleman's exhaustingly needy childlike monarch? Weisz's icy, brutally honest Sarah? Stone's seemingly wide-eyed schemer? Or, rakish puppet master Yorgos Lanthimos? So determined to devise and explore hermetically sealed worlds that present their own unique language, protocols and acrid blend of decorum and debauchery.
Josh: Yeah, this is quite the cheery vision of humanity isn't it? As we would expect from Lanthimos. I think we both knew what we were getting into at this point from that director and for the most part we both really enjoy getting into these sorts of dramas that that he gives us. Great question. I would argue they're all redeemable.
Josh: But I would also say-.
Adam: Such compassion, Josh.
Josh: I guess I would say that some of them have more redeeming qualities than others? Let's start at the bottom, which it sounds like we both agree is Emma Stone's Abigail.
Adam: Maybe not.
Josh: Oh, OK. I mean she is just out for the kill from the beginning, and understandably so for many reasons – the more we hear about her past and, as you said, her station in her class... Man she's– look out. Look out for her, right? And it is, to answer your other question, a perverse delight to watch Stone get to showcase new levels of deceitfulness, especially when her early reputation for sure is as a sweet-natured – someone who plays sweet natured parts, right? Rachel Weisz's Lady Sarah... I think there might be a little bit of genuine love there for the queen, and it's gotten just tangled up in plays for political power and all sorts of other things that we see happen in this film, so that [love] seems to have faded and faded until it's almost entirely gone. But there is... You still see glimmers of it. That makes her, you know, have some redeemable qualities.
I think Queen Anne – and this is maybe tied to how I enjoy the performances. Enjoyed them all, thought they were all great. But Olivia Colman as Queen Anne is just fantastic in the way that she's at once the most... She is the most easily manipulated in some ways, but she's also the master manipulator. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that she's at the top of the chain, right? She's the queen, but she plays that card throughout and Coleman just gives her... There's a lot of "King Lear," going on in this movie, and I think Coleman captures what that play has. It's this idea of a monarch as a having this weary ferocity of a dying animal. There's a desperation to her so that she's at once the movie's most monstrous presence when she really wields that power. But she's also I found her to be the most sympathetic and maybe having the most redeemable qualities because of that. So that's sort of where I landed after a first viewing of this – in one way perfect Lanthimos film in the themes that it's exploring and intriguingly different in that costume drama setting.