So…I watched The Favourite on the plane the other day. The movie is essentially about a power struggle between three women set in an era where there are kings and queens, royal courts, and the like. Most of the action revolves around three women: the queen and her ladies in waiting who support her. There’s fancy classical music. There’s a hint of old timey English speak on everyone’s lips. You know what this movie is going for…and yet I don’t think they quite achieved it.
The cinematography is uninspired. The director clearly wanted this to be an artsy movie, so you would expect some creative pans in and out of the action. You would expect some light and shadow play to visualize the juxtaposition between the characters. But no, there are mostly just long static shots of drab, grey stone from the castle. The overall color scheme was dull and muted. This may have been a conscious choice to show that the castle was in disrepair and and on the way down. However, this color palette forced most shots to appear uninteresting and mediocre. This, combined with the lack of creativity in the camera usage made many scenes boring to watch.
Moreover, the characters are muted. This is not a criticism of the performances by the actors. I think this is one of the shining lights of the movie and was intended to be so. I’m referring to the characters’ spiral into darkness. The two ladies at odds for the queen’s favor start out cordial, move onto subtle political maneuvers, and end with explicit attempts to do harm to one another. My issue is that the story didn’t escalate their battle to a darker conclusion. If the point of this movie is to show this conflict and show how being proper and polite can mask sins and darkness, why not offer more of that darkness as the pay off? Emma Stone’s character seems particularly two-faced and sociopathic. She manipulates men around her remorselessly purely for political gain, yet she seems aimless when she appears to have gotten rid of her main adversary. We get a tease of her maliciousness in the scene with bunny but again, it appears half-hearted. I wanted the characters to really show some viciousness and present a real climax to the movie but in the end, there is really no pay off for what feels like such a long lead up.
I did enjoy the music. I thought that it presented a lot of the drama that the cinematography lacked but ultimately it could not carry the movie over the top. I liked Nicholas Hoult’s character.His abrasive interactions with Emma Stone were pretty funny. In the end, I think this movie wanted to be more than what it is. It wanted to be a high level, hoity toity, artsy piece. It really falls short of that. In trying to achieve that goal, it also does not give enough satisfying action tot he audience so it just ends up as a kind of boring and mediocre. If that’s your idea of art, you can keep it.