My issues with this film are many, but perhaps best exemplified by the image above; examples of the chapter headings that run through the film. I gather its a design approach that ran through the films advertising and poster design. To say its irritating would be an understatement, particularly as this is applied to the credits/titles that bookend the film. I’ve attached this snapshot here of some of the end-credits (apologies for the quality but I did it on the spur of the moment). This film is so hellbent on ‘saying’ something, and being needlessly sophisticated at it, that it even manages to reduce simple credits to almost hieroglyphic quality; at some points quite indecipherable. No doubt somebody (the director?) is chuffed with themselves regards how clever and edgy and different it all is but it infuriated me throughout. The Favourite seems to be one of those films that has a ‘message,’ which is fine, but then labours that message in as obtuse a way as possible. I would imagine its one about how power corrupts, or how three women trying to survive/thrive in a mans world are forced to turn upon one another to do so. Its not lost on me how the women are pretty much portrayed as decent (at least initially until that power thing sets in) and intelligent and all the men as venal and stupid, but hey ho its the times we are living in, that stuff sells now. It certainly wins awards at any rate.
The soundtrack, and much of the sound design in general, is appalling. At one point towards the end I actually paused the film thinking either a plane was going to crash nearby or my central heating was about to explode, but instead it was some rising dramatics in what apparently qualifies as the score. What were they thinking? Well its just the same as those credits, being ‘sophisticated’ for the sake of it, and arthouse sensibilities disappearing up its own navel. Ridiculous.
If I were looking for positives, well, the performances from the leads, particularly Rachel Weisz, are very good (I’m a bit conflicted on Emma Stone, if I’m honest). I have written before regards good period dramas being pretty much like science fiction films, to me, in that they offer other worlds, the past as genuinely foreign to us as any imagine future. The settings are convincing but appear quite alien, the characters look and act in alien ways, following strange social etiquette and demonstrating odd belief-systems and traditions… its all very, well to labour a point, very alien and this film manages that with its slightly screwed representation of 17th Century England. I found this part of it quite appealing and enjoyed the strangeness of it all, as I often think film-makers trying to create a compelling and convincing ‘future world’ would do well to examine the example of good period-set films. I think its something David Lynch did well in the 1984 Dune and of course Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner succeeds so well largely because of its nods to 1940s fashions and film noir.
On the whole though all the artifice in this film turned me off, which is annoying because I think ultimately all that style for the sake of it and arthouse nonsense ill-served the leads, who deserved better.