Kelli: The Favourite (we see u, British spelling) is the latest film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. The film stars Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as her advisor and best friend Sarah, and Emma Stone as Sarah's cousin, Abigail, who arrives at the palace seeking employment. I feel like the most obvious place to start is with these three women, so my first question is: who is your Favourite?
Emily: Oh man... that's a tough one. I liked all three women for different reasons. I loved Sarah's no-nonsense approach to Queen Anne. But I also loved Abigail because she was so resilient and smart. And then Queen Anne was fun because she was such a brat and genuinely enjoyed toying with these bitches. And then, you know, on the other hand, I hated all three of them.
That's such a cop out answer. I'm going to go with Abigail just because she made me laugh the most.
Kelli: Abigail is super interesting, because at the beginning of the movie you think she's one thing, and by the end that impression has totally changed.
Emily: And I got the impression that that was secretly who she was all along. Like at the beginning when she was like, "BTW I got those magical forest herbs for you," I was like, "I see you, Abigail."
Kelli: I've been listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a lot about this movie since I saw it, and Abigail’s arc — and whether or not she’s actually innocent at the start — is something that a lot of people seem divided on!
Emily: What's your take on it? I feel like that ONE MOMENT proves it.
Kelli: I agree, I think she knew exactly what she was doing all along. That moment proves it, but also just the way she talks about her past, especially later on.
Emily: Yes. She's seen things, and she understand how important it is for her to take care of herself.
Kelli: We eventually learn that Abigail’s once-noble status was tainted by her father, who gambled away their good name and ultimately handed her off in order to settle a debt. She recounts the routine sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of the man her father gave her to, as well as from other men she’s encountered throughout her life. She has been aware for a long time of how little power she has, and she is very, very angry about everything that's been done to her — and that kind of anger and clarity doesn't just spring up overnight.
Emily: What's interesting, though, is that she continues to speak about her values and her morality and how she doesn't want to compromise that. And she's often just talking to herself when she says it.
Kelli: That's true. It's like she wants to convince herself that she's still a good person, and that she's justified in what she's doing.
Emily: Right, she has to tell herself there's a line she's unwilling to cross to feel okay.
Kelli: Yes. But never actually draws that line. We see it in how carelessly she treats her new husband, Samuel.
Emily: Omg their wedding night... that was the most hilarious hand job ever.
Kelli: I was dying.
Emily: I love how men are 100% secondary in this movie. And that is so well illustrated in that scene — he is a prop.
Kelli: Totally. And she's like, “here, I'll do this to keep you quiet while I plot out my next move."
Emily: Right. I just love it because so many political-ish movies (whether they're historical or current) are all about men, and the women are just like, the worried wives. So it's cool to see, like, no, women made political moves too. Of course they did.
Kelli: And what I love especially is that we don't even need the men for sex here, because the women are using sex for power with each other instead.
Kelli: Often you'll have a love triangle with a man at the center, but no. Not here. When we first see Queen Anne and Sarah making out, I was like, YES.
Emily: I feel like 2018 was really a big year for lesbians in movies and I am here for it.
Kelli: For sure.
Emily: Let's get more lesbians in the media, please.
Kelli: Speaking of lesbians...
Kelli: What do you think of the relationship between Sarah and Anne? How much of that is about love, and how much of it is just about power?
Emily: I knew you were about to ask me that.
Emily: So, I think that's one of the interesting conversations to have about ANY sexual relationship. Whenever there's sex involved, there's power involved. That's just kind of how our brains work. When we have sex with people, we think, "WHO HAS THE UPPER HAND NOW?" because we're at our most vulnerable when we're naked and having sex. Or half-naked, or however you have sex.
Kelli: You do you, y'all.
Emily: Yes, I can respect a quickie. Anyhow, my point being... I think that question is really hard to answer. I think it's clear there is real love there. But what is more important: power or love? I don't know. They have been friends for a long time and know each other intimately, in more ways than one, so how can there not be love?
Kelli: Yeah, and I think there are some really genuinely poignant moments of love in this film. Like when Sarah tells Anne her makeup makes her look like a badger.
Kelli: And later, offended, Anne says she wished Sarah loved her like Abigail does, to which Sarah responds, “You wish me to lie to you? ‘Oh you look like an angel fallen from heaven, your majesty.’ No. Sometimes, you look like a badger. And you can rely on me to tell you… Because I will not lie! That is love!”
Emily: It's so true.
Kelli: It is! Not just in romantic love, but in friendship love, too. The ability to be honest with each other knowing there aren’t bad intentions. And Sarah and Anne's relationship is all about honesty.
Emily: Right, and NO ONE else is honest with Anne — so that's really meaningful.
Kelli: Okay, so another thing I wanted to talk about is how different this is from what we normally expect from a period piece.
Emily: Funny you should mention that, because I just saw Mary Queen of Scots yesterday, so I'm ready to compare period pieces.
Kelli: I haven't seen that, but I'm interested.
Emily: I mean, with that cast how can you not be?
Kelli: What I like about The Favourite is that it doesn't shy away from how ridiculous and weird and dirty the eighteenth century was. We're so used to seeing very elegant depictions of this time period, especially in royal settings — but here, even in a literal palace, everyone is disgusting. Like, all three of them puke at different moments in the film. How often do we see people fully puke in period pieces?
Emily: I know that was your favorite part, watching Anne puke and then go right back to eating cake.
Kelli: Everyone knows I love a good puke scene. (I have a phobia, y'all.)
Emily: Yeah... and even the lye scene when Abigail burns her hand and you're like, "oh yeah, they cleaned with straight up lye."
Kelli: Yes! And even though everything looks beautiful, it also looks smelly.
Emily: They didn't have Lysol, fam.
Kelli: In addition to showing the grime, they also show a bunch of weird traditions. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is that insane dance. I don't even know how to describe it.
Emily: Yeah, I wanted to ask about the dance. I love how they cut to Anne watching them dance, and when you cut back to the dance you're like, "what on earth are they doing?"
Kelli: It's so funny. I'm sure it's super exaggerated, but oh my god.
Emily: Like, it got even crazier when we weren't looking.
Kelli: It was truly wonderful. I would watch a musical choreographed by whoever was responsible for that.
Emily: So much better than the dancing in Suspiria, btw.
Kelli: SO much better. Speaking of weird shit - how many of Lanthimos' other films have you seen?
Emily: I've seen The Lobster. That's it.
Kelli: Okay — I've seen The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and Dogtooth.
Emily: I've been meaning to watch The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Dogtooth. I was not a huge fan of The Lobster.
Kelli: Oh man, I loved The Lobster. Dogtooth is really great, and Sacred Deer is aight. In my opinion. But — I think this film is a really interesting choice for him. It's his first period piece, and also one of his only films that isn't doing something dystopian. I need to watch more of his older work, because his films are really unlike anything I've ever seen. I feel like there aren't a lot of directors I can compare him to.
Emily: Right, I think I would need to see more of his work to know what his aesthetic is. Because this movie was so different from The Lobster, and I'm assuming The Lobster is more of what he normally does.
Kelli: Yeah, I would say so. Although The Lobster is very different from something like Dogtooth, which I think is a lot less humorous. But everything Lanthimos does is somehow cynical and playful at the same time.
Emily: Yes, I get that.
Kelli: Which sort of brings me to — What do you make of the ending? First, for people who haven't seen the film: the ending features Anne forcing Abigail to rub her gouty legs and probably also her LADY BITS, and both of their faces during this exchange are juxtaposed over film of Anne's many pet rabbits. It goes on for... a while.
Emily: Well... I was actually pretty blown away by the ending.
Kelli: Oooh! Do tell.
Emily: I thought it was intense and subtle at the same time, and I think Emma Stone did an excellent job, without saying anything, of conveying her thoughts at the end of that moment. A sort of realization that there is no winning. She's trapped. She will always be trapped.
Kelli: Right. Because even though she "won" her place beside the Queen, she is still being abused, and she still isn't free.
Emily: What did you think? For me, it was the perfect final note.
Kelli: I think the more I thought about it afterwards, the more I understood it. In the moment, I'll admit I was confused. When Ivan and I came out of the theatre we were discussing what it might mean, and I came to basically that conclusion — that this is a cycle, a constant power struggle that never allows anyone to find peace. And I can't help but think the rabbits were meant to symbolize the sexual part of that struggle.
Emily: Interesting. I didn't think of that.
Kelli: And also the endlessness of it, since they're constantly reproducing.
Emily: It is telling that the rabbits are literal stand-ins for people. They represent people Anne has lost.
Kelli: Right. And Abigail stepping on one of them and torturing it is what drives Anne to abuse her in this way. Which was super interesting, and just shows how far their relationship has fallen — because initially, one of the things that Abigail did to make Anne like her was be super kind to the bunnies (because Sarah hates them).
Emily: Yes, so Abigail is starting to reveal her true self to Anne.
Kelli: And she thinks she has enough power now to hurt one of them. But Anne quickly puts her in her place, literally. ON THE FLO.
Emily: Ya don't, boo.
Kelli: Honestly if I saw someone stepping on a bunny's head, I would make them massage my legs too. Anyway. Did you have anything else you wanted to talk about? Favourite moments?
Emily: I just want to talk about how fun the shooting scenes were. Where Sarah and Abigail are just shooting guns and being bitches.
Kelli: Oh, totally. And a really cool subversion of what we normally see, where some man teaches a woman how to shoot. Instead, it's an older woman teaching a younger woman.
Emily: I love that in movies. How characters are given "business" to do while discussing things that are actually plot-related. And this was just such a fun bit of business
Kelli: And also a good way to make the power struggle a little more dangerous.
Emily: Like any time they needed to have a subtle power play conversation, just have them shooting guns.
Kelli: Well, I'm glad you liked this movie as much as I did!
Emily: I loved it. I gave it 4.5 stars, and it made it into my coveted top 10 list. OF DA YEAR
Kelli: YAS. I think it would be on mine, too, except I haven't made one because I haven't seen enough 2018 films yet and I'm ashamed.
Emily: Well, you know, I saw all the important ones. Aquaman. The Predator. Getting ready for awards season.
Kelli: Those are your top 3, I assume. The Favourite, Aquaman, and The Predator.
Kelli: I did see Venom.
Emily: It was so bad.
Kelli: I loved it. It was so dumb. It reminded me of Spiderman 3. Anyway, I digress. Go see The Favourite, everyone! Olivia Colman for best actress!!!!
Emily: YES SHE WAS SO GOOD. KAY LUV U BYE.