First Hit: A stark, intense musical score underscores the bizarre and tension filled interrelationships between the queen and her court.
The film is bizarre in that it always feels like it’s on the edge of chaos in both the way the film is presented and in its content. There are a couple of dance scenes, where it appears that the dancers are doing very traditional 18th century dance, then there are moves that are contemporary in nature.
Would one really believe that a queen would purposefully throw herself on the floor, cry and scream, in front of her government? Would the queen purposefully fall down and fake a fainting spell while addressing Parliament because she doesn’t know what to do?
These on the edge of reality scenes are mixed with scenes that reflect the time period. Yet the costumes are angularly odd in their accurateness, restrictiveness, and color. The use of blacks and dark colors in odd angles for the Queen and her immediate court were inspired and pointed in the feeling they created for the audience.
Under it all was this music. Sometimes it was just two notes, one sounding like it came from a keyboard and a dissonant one from a violin in a scratchy intense tone. Back and forth these notes went while growing in volume creating tenseness.
Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) is a mixed-up individual and leader of England. She’s ill-informed, helpless, petulant, inquisitive, always feels victimized, a baby, and a physical wreck.
In odd scenes we see her stuffing her mouth with cake, throwing up, all while playing a game of solitary. Or deciding to build a huge palace for her right-hand woman Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). The palace she wants to build for Sarah is huge and in celebration of winning the war with France. When Sarah indicates that England has only won a battle not the war, the queens states “oh, I didn’t know that.”
Sarah cares about the government, makes most all the decisions, is strong willed, cares for the queen, driven to keep the queen’s childish ways from ruining England, and sleeps with the queen providing her with sexual pleasure.
Abigail (Emma Stone) enters the court early as a kitchen worker. She was once a Lady of fine standing, but her family fell on hard times, and since then she’s been tossed around the country as sort of a homeless rag doll. She's all about self-preservation. She knows Lady Sarah from her prosperous earlier times and when Sarah discovers that Abigail is part of the queen’s home, Sarah decides to keep tabs on Abigail by making her a personal servant.
Abigail, we learn early on, is out for herself and discovers that she likes the queen, sees that the queen is manipulable, and knows that if she can get in the queen’s good graces, she will make a better life for herself. When Abigail manipulates the queen into letting her marry one of the queen's court, we see how interested she is in loving her new husband on their wedding night as she services him while dreaming up new ways to cement her relationship with the queen.
The battle lines are drawn between Abigail and Sarah; who will become the queen’s favourite?
Coleman is unbelievable. Her ability to show compassion, petulance, chronic illness, being uninterested, and all the time being head of state was fascinatingly amazing. She will get an academy award nod for this performance. Weisz continues to show me, time and time again, how powerful she is at carrying an underlying tones and feelings while outwardly showing something different. Her performance here is outstanding and deserving of an award nod. Stone is sublime in this quirky role of self-preservation. She is both raw and sweet while being kind and conniving. Another award-winning performance. There are many other actors in this film, all giving wonderful performances. The wildly quirky and strangely interesting screenplay was created by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Mixing this brew of a bold visionary story, powerful music, and a cast of gifted actors was the clearly deft hand of direction by Yorgos Lanthimos.
Overall: This was a strange brew of color, sound, and dialogue in scenes that seemed to always teeter on the edge of sanity.