Led by a trio of complex 18th century women and featuring men who like to throw things — as well as a duck on a leash and a bunch of bunnies — Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite rolled into the Venice Film Festival today. As with all competition titles here, reviews are embargoed until later this evening, but I can say that the press conference was quite lively.
Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne with Rachel Weisz as confidante Lady Sarah and Emma Stone as Sarah’s cousin Abigail who’s fallen on hard times. Taking place largely at court, inside the vast palace, the story has its share of shifting alliances and includes some royally sexual politics.
Colman noted sexual politics are “timeless.” She quipped, “We think we invented sex, but it’s been going on for a really long time.” Then, to great laughter, she added of their characters in the film, “It was awfully fun having sex with Emma Stone.” (Stone concurred.)
Colman said playing Queen Anne was “a joy because she sort of feels everything.” Asked if the character is really just a petulant child, Colman corrected, “She’s just a woman who is underconfident and doesn’t know if anyone genuinely loves her. She has too much power, too much time on her hands.”
A period piece and not written with his regular collaborator Efthymis Filippou is a departure for Lanthimos. He said he was attracted to it when he read the script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara and “became acquainted with the three female characters who happened to be real people. I felt that it was an interesting story in its own right, but you also have the opportunity to create three complex female characters which is something you rarely see.”
Asked how the movie ties into the #MeToo era, Lanthimos said the “positive aspect” is that it focuses on three female characters, “But what we tried to do is portray them as human beings. Because of the prevalent male gaze in cinema, women are portrayed as housewives, girlfriends… Our small contribution is we’re just trying to show them as complex and wonderful and horrific as they are, like other human beings.”
Stone was asked if the rivalry between women at court in the film could be applied to women in Hollywood. The movie business has “a competitive spirit, but that exists in probably most industries,” she said. “I hadn’t thought of the analogy about the film industry until somebody asked me yesterday so I’m just starting to think about the associations.”
The Element Pictures film was nine years in the making and ultimately came together with Film4 and Fox Searchlight co-financing like they did on Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Co-stars are Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn and Mark Gatiss.
Fox releases The Favourite November 23 domestically.