The Favourite

The Favourite

Favourite opened to a number of rave reviews and is in line for Oscar honors. I mention that because I thought the movie was intolerable. Let’s take a look at the positives first.

Set in the 1700s, it is a sight to behold. The castle where Queen Anne rules is especially beautiful, bathed always in the evening warmth of hundreds of candles and in the natural light of daytime. Against this fine background, the acting is predictably exciting. Olivia Colman creates the physically and emotionally unstable Queen Anne with great skill. Rachel Weisz gives us Lady Sarah, tough guardian and keeper of the unpredictable Queen. Abigail (Emma Stone) causes trouble in the palace as she plots her complex return to prominence after her royal family fell from grace into poverty and oblivion.

As the characters are introduced, the audience sits back in happy anticipation of what’s to come. We are watching first-rate competition among three selfish royals as each of them drives her cruelty into both the audience and each other with sharp verbal exchanges. As the drama unfolds, we are absorbed by the value systems of these characters, by the tools they summon to navigate their world. What’s more fun than watching three fine actors create trouble among themselves in the sophisticated language of their day?

And now, the unravelling. Writers Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, along with director Yorgas Lanthimos, decide to drop our contemporary American culture into their marvelous 18 th century story. They bestow the foul slang and behavior of 2019 America on their three grand actors and it doesn’t work. Instead of humor, the repetition of today’s boring swearwords turns the movie into slapstick. Imagine the humor that might have come from soaking this movie in the slang of the 1700s.

As the swear words and sexual proclivities of 2019 are plugged into the 1700s, the cruel sophistication already created by the sharp witted, selfish competitors is destroyed. Couldn’t the writers have laced it with the outrageousness of the era? It’s refreshing to see a movie about women running their world even when every one of them is entirely self-absorbed. But this movie, promising in so many ways, is set to a terrible score and is immersed in the boring repetition of the four-letter words of our day.

Favourite began with a grand cast and a strong story. Wouldn’t it have been funnier if their collective outrage had been expressed in the dirty slang and cruelty of their time rather than mixing the language of two centuries? If the intent of the filmmakers is to show that two centuries apart, sex still runs everything, that’s dull stuff compared to the superb family fight in the beginning of the movie. We need a script revision so the truly fine actors – Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz – can carry us through the feminine cruelty of the 1700s. The lazy foulmouthery of today doesn’t do them justice.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Favourite
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 1:59
Rating : R
Date : 23 December 2018

Green Book

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Green Book

Green Book may well be the finest movie of this year. It is beautifully made by everyone connected with it and audiences love the rare blend of tragedy and comedy, each delivered in sophisticated ways.

The explosive opening scene in New York’s Copacabana establishes Tony Lip (Viggo Mortenson) as a hot-tempered man who refuses to be insulted. After a brutal fight, he goes home to his wife and two children in the Bronx where he is a calm, loving husband and father. This is a good man whose temper ignites only in the face of injustice.

Tony gets a job as driver for Afro-American classical pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), who is about to embark on a two-month concert tour from New York through the Midwest and the South to a final concert in Atlanta. When he goes for the job interview, Tony finds the renowned Dr. Shirley in an elegant outfit, seated on a throne, and living in absolute luxury above Carnegie Hall. The two team up for the trip – Tony and Doc.

The renowned pianist is greeted with standing ovations wherever he plays but when he turns southward, those ovations are accompanied by clear instructions as to where he can eat and sleep. This is a true story that unfolded in 1962 and it’s a shock.

Tony drives Doc to all his concerts and becomes more involved as they face racial blocks that grow more ugly as they move southward where signs on inns and hotels read “No Colored.” In the ones labelled “Colored,” the beds, rooms, and bathrooms are filthy.

From that point forward, we watch the subtle deepening of the relationship between the two men as Tony realizes his boss is exploring the depth of racial injustice on his concert tour. Tony himself is the white man outraged by the injustice of what he now realizes he had never noticed before. The bond between the two grows deeper as they face the challenges of the deep South.

As all this unfolds, we begin to understand the subtle gift given us by director, writers, and actors who are re-creating a piece of history in pure art form. There are no slipups anywhere as everyone working on the film seems to understand the blend of two strong men facing the tragedy of racism. Tony and Doc begin to help each other in new ways that are deeply moving for the audience. The cultural changes wrap the two in trust without changing their strong beliefs about themselves.

Special credit goes to director Peter Farrelly and actor Linda Cardellini who plays Tony Lip’s wife. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali are subtle and superb as Tony and Doc. They build an unusual friendship rooted in respect and trust though each retains his essential self even when challenged by the other. If you miss this one you will miss a movie where all its creators have worked together to make a genuine work of art.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Green Book
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:10
Rating : R
Date : November 16, 2018