Critics are hard to figure out. They always end up liking garbage like this. My mind was blown listening to all my fellow colleagues in the San Diego Film Critics Society heaping praise on this at our year end voting the other day.
I don’t dislike period pieces (Sense and Sensibility is one of my all-time favorites). It’s movies that are artsy crap like this.. And Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos is someone that makes films that often fall into this category, and critics always praise him. His movie Dogtooth had moments of brilliance, but was flawed, and disgusting in so many ways. He made The Lobster (John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz, Colin Farrell), which was also an interesting premise that went off the rails in the second half. He used Colin Farrell again in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which had a terrific performance from Barry Keoghan, but was basically awful. In each of his movies, he seems to show an animal being killed or tortured, and somebody has to masturbate. In this latest period piece satire from him (using Weisz and Olivia Colman again), there are two masturbation scenes, and a rabbit being stomped. So even when Lanthimos goes all 1702, he still uses his same dopey stuff.
And it’s not that I’m some prude. It’s just that hearing people called a “cu*t” and having crazy sex, should fit with the narrative (Boogie Nights is one of my all-time favorites).
This period piece satire would’ve probably worked if it were done by Monty Python.
In this fictional story involving real people, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is in a sort of love-triangle with Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), and her cousin that shows up one day —
Abigail Masham (Emma Stone). It’s the early 1700s. Other than the names and times, everything else in the movie is made up. It’s also bizarre that, for those of us that didn’t pay as much attention as we should’ve in history class, you won’t have a clue when or who all these people are.
This is the first movie Lanthimos has done without co-writer Efthymis Filippou. It’s a script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara.
Nicholas Hoult plays the Speaker of the House of Commons. His preening demeanor works well. His language…just made me roll my eyes (at one point he uses the word “cu*t-struck”; seriously, Lanthimos needs to get a thesaurus for dirty words; he uses the c-word more than Tarantino uses the n-word).
Stone is okay as Abigail, although it’s hard to buy how she climbed so quickly from being a lowly servant to being the Queen’s favorite (both as a person and in bed). That obviously infuriated Lady Sarah Churchill (as you’ve seen from the trailers, where she throws books at her in the library). That makes for a tense scene when they’re shooting fowl, but not much else of their fighting ever really works. There’s also fighting going on between Whigs and Tories.
Having a story involving three female leads, manipulating various men…could be interesting. Unfortunately, the women aren’t interesting enough. And a subplot with Abigail finding “romance” is utterly ridiculous in every scene she has with her suitor (including the scene Lanthimos has in each movie — having her use her hand to satisfy him).
In the last few months, there have been a number of movies my wife and I have watched, and wondered who would be interested in seeing them. This is an example. Anyone that’s into period pieces, won’t like a completely fictional and far-fetched story, simply based on a rumor that Queen Anne was a lesbian who had a secret relationship with Lady Sarah.
Anyone that wants a funny satire, will be disappointed. So many of the jokes don’t work.
And Lanthimos using the fisheye lens — made absolutely no sense (as well as a few slow motion scenes and tracking dolly shots). At least a few of the other critics agreed with me on that point.
It also has an annoying soundtrack.
It also had a barfing scene, which now makes it 81.4% of all the movies I’ve seen the last five years having a throw-up scene.
Other than Fiona Crombie’s production design, and Sandy Powell’s costumes — which are beautiful — there’s nothing here worth your two hours.
1 ½ stars out of 5, and a historical fun fact: instead of what the movie shows happening to Sarah, in real life when she died, she had an estate around $8 million, and her descendants included Winston Churchill and Princess Diana.