Cinema Style is a series where I review a film (new or old) and pair it with an outfit that pays tribute to the visual aesthetic of said movie. Whether you’re looking for a “bound” of some sort, or just want some style dipped in the “flavor” of your new favorite movie, these write-ups are here to help!
In the world of cinema, it is sometimes hard to define the visual representations of cruelty. Sure, there has been some form of violence in almost every flick since the beginning of film history, and there’s enough “torture porn” genre movies to fill a garbage dump, but when it comes to the more emotional side of the phrase, there aren’t too many films that capture the word visually on screen. Or at least, that was the case until the director of The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos, became an Indie Film darling.
With such films as Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Dear, Lanthimos has established himself as a filmmaker of a certain palette. He’s definitely no one that I could persuade my Grandmother to watch, but even to other members of the Millennial tribe, he’s a hard pill to swallow. But with The Favourite, Yorgos trades in his bleak look at our modern times and exchanges them for a dark comedic trip into the past – one that is more accessible than his previous work, but is still just as cruel to its players.
Set in the 18th century, The Favourite (written deliciously by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara) tells the story of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman), who rules over the English Royal Court. She’s the Disney animated version of Alice’s Queen of Hearts, with a loud shriek, stern look, and even a hoard of rabbits by her side. But instead of 2D decks of cards to protect her, she has Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), her best friend at her beck and call. They share everything from laughs, to politics, and even Queen Anne’s bedroom. And with such a “close” friendship, Sarah has gained a kind of power in the court that many women could only dream of.
But there is a wind of change that comes to the castle, in the form of Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), the wide-eyed and unlucky cousin of Sarah. She may have all the charms and wit that any man of that era would desire, but deep inside of Abigail is a drive for success – one that will make her do anything to gain the Queen’s approval and admiration, just as her older cousin has so wonderfully acquired. And if it means war (in that cat fight sort of way), she (and Sarah) will do whatever it takes to be the winner of the Queen’s affections.
In fact, both Sarah and Abigail’s thirst for glory matches much of Lanthimos’ own – proving that he is a director that goes above and beyond to breath new life into a genre that so often produces yawn fest after yawn fest. And coming from someone with a deep admiration for costume dramas, it is refreshing to see such a modern filmmaker take on what could have been (in the wrong hands) an unremarkable BBC TV movie, and create an end product that is truly unique.
With his abundance of fish eye lenses, unglamorous static shots, and equally grotesque moments of Weisz having a horrific horse ride, Lanthimos refuses to hold anything back and breaks much of the posh simplicity of the costume films that have come before – giving his take with a punk, rebellious flavor. Similarly the costume designers by (our lord and savior) Sandy Powell evoke the trends of the era, while also speaking to the plot’s darkly comedic (and over the top) nature.
But the true “secret” sauce within The Favourite is the brilliant performance given by Olivia Coleman. For many years, Coleman has been regarded as one of the most under appreciated actresses of her time. She clearly understands, with calculated precision, how to bring Lanthimos’ unique take on filmmaking to life (as she previously showcased in The Lobster.) Her Queen Anne is one part glamorous, and another grotesque. One moment a symbol of royalty and success, and another idiocy and complete failure – and Coleman showcases these elements with complete honestly, even to the last frame of the movie.
And that kind of acting (along with Stone’s and Weisz’) combine together to make a movie that unapologetically tells of a story that is as old as time itself – the kind that Lathimos conveys with just a simple overlapping shot of various bunnies: Women are always looking to gain power and respect within a man’s world, yet no matter how much success they achieve, the world ultimately makes them feel guilt and regret for the way they got there. It is an endless cycle that doesn’t end with this story of Queen Anne and her “favourite” helpers, but rather is one that continues to this very day.
So rather than looking at The Favourite as a product of a time you will never understand, it is important to view it through the lens of our modern age, and how society still retains much of the ridiculous and cut throat tendencies that make women go against each other to achieve any sort of strength, but tries to strip them away of that in the process. And if creatives like Lanthimos, Davis and McNamara can produce such a message in such a tightly compact genre like costume dramas, than they (and this movie) are truly something to behold.
Final Grade: A
Outfit: The Favourite features a lot of black lace and gothic undertones, with a sweeping romantic feel. For this, I decided to go with a stunning swing dress from Vixen by Micheline Pitt, a bunny brooch from Etsy store THEPROUDBUFFALO, Victorian inspired boots from Amazon, and a Gothic inspired headpiece from Etsy shop sweetmildred.