Photo via IMDb.

Nothing but Respect for *MY* Best Picture Winner, 'The Favourite'

It may not have taken home the Oscar, but it's a star in the hearts and minds of queer film Twitter.

by Rachel Rabbit White
Feb 28 2019, 3:48pm

Photo via IMDb.

The Favourite, an all-frills punk period romp by Yorgos Lanthimos about gay power-play in Queen Anne’s court, may not have won “Best Picture” at the Oscars, but it lives on in the heart of every viewer who found joy and a certain calm recognition in the images of duck racing, mud-bathing, bizarre court dancing and cake-binging, all set within in the dark comic story of a lesbian sex-and-power triangle.

For those on queer Twitter, The Favourite didn’t go unnoticed. Along with with Disobedience (known online as the movie where Rachel Weisz spits in Rachel McAdams’ mouth), The Favourite filled social media feed with a newfound passion for Weisz in queer roles, a passion that—like all new loves—grew like wildfire, coming on suddenly and quickly turning deranged.

With such a pure mood blossoming in the timeline, it can can be easy to forget one is living in the bubble of queer film Twitter—and hard to fall back into a reality where the truly indefensible choice that is Green Book takes home the title of Best Picture, proving once more how ready is Hollywood to forget the bad deeds of well-connected men.

In the days leading up to the Oscars, New York Times “Awards Season columnist” Kyle Buchanan was asked why T he Favourite wasn’t getting more buzz. His answer? “Honestly... a lot of straight male voters I talk to did not click with THE FAVOURITE.” Which raises two questions… is it true? And do we even care?

What is true about The Favourite is that it places three women at its center. The characters and interior lives of these women are extremely realized while the men in the film fall to the wayside, serving as ridiculous eye-candy in their powdered wigs, blush, and red-bottomed high heels. The men in the movie are easily mocked (or invisible, as is the case for Anne’s husband Prince George)—which is also the point. The two male leads are easily confused for each other, they both love gossip, preening, and are generally horrific people (throwing oranges at each other for fun, throwing themselves at women with all the aggressive sexuality of a boar) and are easily made fun of by the women in the film.

The women in the film are as vicious as the men, but are also fleshed out in their flaws and their lifelike brilliance—a feat both of the writing and the acting. Emma Stone plays Abigail, a lowly maid who climbs the ranks of the court with methodical scheming, a range of comedic expressions, and a mischievous sense of play. Rachel Weisz is Sarah, the real political power behind the Queen (and her top). And the Queen herself, played by (Oscar winner!) Olivia Colman—mother to seventeen pet rabbits, one for each child she lost—is the indulgent, easily seduced, forever childlike center of the tension, enjoying playing the two women against each other. In the McDonald’s Alignment Chart, it’s clear where everyone lands. The result is a comedic harmony and a sexuality that straight cis male viewers, apparently, might not have understood.

The film deploys a sensibility for the humor and tragedy at play when power and bodies meet. If the sex scenes are unsettling, that’s what gives them their charm. When the (often wheelchair bound) Queen is jealous of a man at court dancing with Sarah, (Rachel Weisz) she demands that Sarah take her to bed, they then pause in a hallway where the Queen slaps her hard across the face. Sarah, forever in a dance of winning back her influence over Queen Anne for greater political gain, then seduces her in a library. The Queen nearly puts Weisz’s whole fist in her mouth before the two start kissing, hand traveling below the frame, as Queen Anne deliberately whispers “Fuck me”.

Abigail (Emma Stone) first seduces the Queen (who has just been embarrassed at court) by sleeping, totally by accident she says, nude in the royal bed—a plan, we understand, to overtake Sarah as the new favorite. The Queen will not respond asking her to get dressed and leave, but, in the middle of the night a page will call for Abigail to rub the sore legs of her majesty. At the foot of the bed, Abigail works her hands, massaging first her calves, then her thighs, going up the Queen’s nightclothes, staring at her deadpan as the Queen is seized by pleasure, arms flailing back, moaning, “Oh, oh the pain.”

So often “lesbian movies” come in two shades: the somewhat melodramatic tragic romance ( Carol, High Art, Room in Rome) or the visually pornographic feast for eyes ( Blue is the Warmest Color, The Handmaiden.) The Favourite manages to be a successful dark comedy whose queer sex scenes don’t overpower the movie by reaching too hard for the male gaze (or overreaching emotionally for a pinkwashed “romcom” vibe) while remaining distinctly fun, sensual, if not sex—or at least for those among us who find mind games and power-play fun and are willing to entertain the queer fantasy of Queen Anne and her sugar babies.

Even if The Favorite didn’t win (as it happened with lesbian canon movie Carol, which wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture) it still is a huge win for its queer audience. We got a gay queen with gout who mainlined cake, bottomed for both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, didn’t often want to do any work and spent her days demanding more and more attention from her two girlfriends. If this isn’t visibility for my personal queer sector of Twitter than I don’t know what is.

And we’ll have images for days of Rachel Weisz in her look for the 2019 Oscars, a bright red floor length tulle Givenchy gown with a red latex top, a now-infamous nod to the fact that every queer-leaning women on the Internet wants her to dominate them, to run them over with a moving vehicle, to spit in their orifices, to stuff the lace eye-patch her character wore into their mouths, essentially to direct their entire sexual energy with her focus. This, too, is queer canon!

the favourite
Rachel Weisz
Olivia Colman
emma stone
queer cinema