Since Yorgos Lanthimos broke through in the late 2000s with his edgy and subversive Greek dramas Kinetta and Dogtooth, he has come to specialize in weakly dystopian, vigorously modern films where the normal social rules seem to have been suspended and those Prohibited protagonists are hit by emotional catatony. In films like The Hummer and Kill of a Sacred Deer, middle-class people have forgotten how to love and how to speak politely to each other: civilization's veneers are thin, and when it collapses, Lanthimos & # 39; signs in each other and teeth and nail.
He is probably the last filmmaker you expect to take on a time drama, but here he is in the right of Queen Anne. It looks like a strange move until you look at the movie and discover that all of the director's remaining themes have been transplanted to the early 18th century England.
For this is no polite and sanitary inheritance drama: the favorite is subject to a kind of simulation, punk anarchy, and Lanthimos misses no opportunity to puncture the polite conventions of historical cinema and remind us that these are meat and blood men and women, not tasteful wax works. Mainly women, in fact, because in the heart of Lanthimos' witty, wicked, almost spitefully insightful drama is a ménage a trois that involves three wise but differently afflicted women. Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) arrives at Queen Anne's household without a title, post or crown to her name. She is there for Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), a distant cousin, and the Queen's closest confidant. But some ideas that she may have received preferential treatment from her relative are quickly abducted when sent to the kitchen to act as a record view.
The Queen (Olivia Colman) is a high-strung woman, sickly and histrionic, and inclined to see enemies everywhere. She's not wrong: England's politicians and soldiers, led by Sarah Churchill's husband, Hertford of Marlborough (Mark Gatiss), disturbing to accepting orders from a woman, expecting the monarch to be easily controlled. Sarah Churchill has been placed in court for the same, but is not always easy to control herself. The swaggering matriarch of an increasingly influential family (Diana Spencer and Winston Churchill are among her famous descendants, and Winston wrote a very entertaining book about her exploits), Sarah knows her mind and speaks it, and seems to have Anne under her thumb and pushing her toward ever-greater involvement in the war with France looked dear to her husband's heart.
But Abigail is too smart to linger far below the stairs, and soon Sarah has a rival. After Abigail uses herbs to recognize Anne's bedsores, the monarch warms the girl and begins to spend more time with her. It seems to have been a sexual dimension to Sarah's relationship with the Queen, but Abigail is fully prepared to roll up his sleeves in this regard, and soon she and Sarah are locked in a gloves-of struggle for survival.
Yorgos Lanthimos handles this story with great skill and knowledge. At times, the tone is mostly cartoon: Abigail and Sarah's tit-for-tat war reminded me of Tom and Jerry, and Olivia Colman's melts have a blackadder's black about them. But these are real women, not satirical caricatures, and when the film deepened, you begin to appreciate their different dilemmas.
If Sara Churchill had been a man, she had been among the most admired Britons of her age, but her bellicose determination is seen as unfeminine, and she must use the queen to pursue the family's end goal. Abigail Hill is tired and ruthless and will resort to some tricks to recover. But for her, the stakes are large, and in a quiet speech early on, she describes abuses, rape and general cruelty, one is expected to endure as a woman without position.
Anne seems like a monster of self-absorption to one realizing that here is a woman who has really suffered. She experienced more than a dozen misunderstandings, and the two children she gave birth died in childhood: These tragedies have driven her half-sweat, but her inner loathing is not completely destroyed, as Sara and her politicians will discover.
This is a wonderful movie, funny, absurd, anarchic and deep. Emma Stone is excellent as the tight, always resourceful Abigail, and Rachel Weisz is well cast as steely and formidable Sarah. But Olivia Colman dominates the movie with a fearless, nuanced, fascinating depiction of a broken woman.
The favorite (15A, 119mins) – 5 stars
Movies coming soon …
Welcome to Marwen (Steve Carell, Leslie Mann, Merritt Wever, Eiza Gonzalez, Diane Kruger, Gwendoline Kruger); RBG (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Ginsburg, James Steven Ginsburg, Nina Totenberg, Gloria Steinem).