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‘The Favourite’ deserves victory with its command of satire and absurdism

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‘The Favourite’ deserves victory with its command of satire and absurdism

Emma Stone and Olivia Colman in “The Favourite,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

Emma Stone and Olivia Colman in “The Favourite,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

Source: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Emma Stone and Olivia Colman in “The Favourite,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

Source: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Source: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Emma Stone and Olivia Colman in “The Favourite,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

Danny Vesurai, Reporter

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A race-winning duck named Horatio. Seventeen rabbits that run around and represent the death of children. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone arguing, bickering and subverting power norms.

That should convince you. Oscar voters should hand Best Picture to Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite,” a dark, riotous comedy that takes aim at and interrogates power structures by telling the story of a love triangle with Queen Anne of England and two of her mischievous, scheming aides.

“The Favourite” is rife with backstabbing, scheming, power plays on power plays. It comments on today’s world by looking at the absurdity of how far people will go to gain and solidify power, and how that power corrupts them. It reminds us that under the veneer of civilization, chaos and insanity reign. Of course, you’ll probably forget that because you’ll be too busy laughing.

With such shenanigans, the movie showcases its three leads’ talents, who are at turns eccentric, charming and cruel. Yes, other Best Picture nominee leads may also provide stellar performances (Rami Malek’s Freddie Mercury, Christian Bale’s Satan — I mean Dick Cheney), but three powerhouse actresses fighting for power and screen time is just so much more exquisite and delectable.

Of particular note is Colman’s performance as the petulant, impulsive Queen Anne. Between fits of rage and spells of despair, we get a glimpse of the frightened, lonely human she is. The queen’s had 17 children who died in the womb or in childbirth, and suffers from intense gout — understandable that she’s quite eccentric.

Stone’s turn as the underdog schemer Abigail, a distant relative of Weisz’s Sarah, is also commendable. Stone subverts audiences’ expectations of the down-to-earth, good-hearted girl from “La La Land” and “Easy A.” Near the end of “The Favourite,” she slowly crushes a rabbit with her foot, letting up only when summoned by the queen. Although she’s ascended the court ranks and outwitted her political rivals, Abigail is still at the queen’s beck and call, unable to resist her demand for her legs to be rubbed.

Although “The Favourite” seems a little too avant-garde for the Academy, it’s not completely out of line. “The Artist,” “Birdman” and “Moonlight” all ultimately won and beat more traditional period pieces and dramas. In picking “The Favourite,” the Academy would honor the artistic and cinematic risks it takes.

The film is awkwardly beautiful, with unconventional angles and sweeping whip pans that blur the corners of shots. Harsh lighting and deep shadows, along with a discordant score, heighten the suspicion and tension of the movie. Such factors make it seem like the movie’s a chore to watch.

But “The Favourite” is easy — and fun — to watch. That likely has to do with the fact that this is the first movie Lanthimos has directed that he didn’t write; unlike his previous movies, absurd and psychological horror lie under witty dialogue and settings. A scene where Weisz and Joe Alwyn (Taylor Swift’s beau) show off ridiculous dance moves in a ballroom is absolutely hilarious, a test of how far Lanthimos can push his absurd world on people.

Under that levity, though, is the pesky, ever-present corruption from power. That the three female leads attempt to take charge of their lives and ultimately fail should somber viewers and haunt them long after they leave the theater. Each woman’s suffering floats through the screen and shapes who they are, who they want to be. “The Favourite” is about a flawed, wretched type of humanity, one that’s all too real and relatable, and that’s why it should win the Oscar.

Email: dvesurai@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @dvesurai

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