The Favourite: Please Explain the Ending [Spoilers]

Release Date: November 23, 2018
Cast:  Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Studio: Scarlet Films; Element Pictures; Arcana; Film4 Productions; Waypoint Entertainment
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Spoilers: High
IMDB | Rotten Tomatoes | Wikipedia

Rating:

Soooo, can anyone explain the ending of The Favourite to me?

Spoilers ahead – don’t read if you don’t want the entire ending of the movie dissected in as much excruciating detail as the actual final scene. Or, equally as excruciating as a high school literary analysis class discussing anything by James Joyce.

Okay, I’m legitimately asking: what the actual fuck happened at the end of this movie?
I was on board for the infantile queen, the courtly schemes, the clash between landed nobility and out-of-touch royalty. You got me. I’m all about Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz battling for their station and for their country (respectively). Everything was lovely. I loved the costumes, the ambiance, the dry dialogue.

This was exactly my kind of movie: a period drama with amazing actresses. I’m there. I am here for this movie. So believe me when I say that I was happily cruising along for the ride until Yorgos Lanthimos completely fucking lost me to go off the rails for a super awkward, lingering, leg stroking (pleasuring??) scene overlaid with restless bunny rabbits.
What the hell was that?

The whole last quarter of the movie dragged a bit long, especially without the Sarah/Abigail rivalry to keep it afloat. Without that dynamic, slowly, the film sank under the weight of Abigail’s manipulation and Anne’s mercurial outbursts.

Then came the stroking rabbits.

Leading up to that scene, Abigail (Emma Stone’s character) betrayed her true nature to Queen Anne – she started squeezing one of Anne’s pet rabbits under her heel. As the bunny screams, the Queen snaps out of her stupor to observe, and then calls Abigail to rub her leg.

Previously, the only other time we’ve seen Abigail massage Anne was when she snuck into her room to rub salve on her gouty legs before she progressed to doing hand stuff with her. Just prior, Sarah (Rachel Weisz’ character), had been banished from England after being accused by Abigail of embezzling funds from the crown.

The ending scene felt like a film and media studies students’ attempt at being literary. It was so discordant and jarring. I felt like there was some huge, important piece of symbolism that I completely missed that ruined an otherwise highly enjoyable movie. I just don’t get it.

From what I can cobble together, maybe it was symbolic of the relationship between Abigail and the rabbit, but now the role is reversed and Anne is torturing Abigail under her heel. Or maybe it was to symbolize how Abigail again trapped herself in the same cage with different trimmings.

It may symbolize her return to her previous life when her father gambled her away into sex servitude. Also, we don’t really know if Anne is getting sexually gratified in that long, horribly, horribly (a theater full of people sitting in confused silence and feeling vaguely dirty and uncomfortable) long end scene.

Abigail’s past interaction implies that she is pleasuring Anne, but Anne doesn’t emote at all. It may be that Anne discovered her own power, but the character transformation this late into the movie isn’t completely convincing. Also, the audience never really pins down Anne’s true nature until the latter half of the movie, so maybe this was a lesson on how power perverts people?

But what about the rabbits? They were named after Anne’s deceased children, but I’m not really sure where they fit in. Is Anne stuck in a child-like state referenced by the rabbits? Is Abigail a surrogate rabbit/child?

Regardless, there’s not enough to go on here and it is so frustrating.

I’m fine with a movie that leaves some threads hanging- you’re allowed to trust your audience to put in some work. I don’t need everything tied up nicely in an ending. Inception me. It’s fine. Spin your top. Was it all a dream? We don’t know? Cool. But don’t give me some horribly meaningful, convoluted, painful jumble of artistic, post-modern nonsense when the entire rest of the movie tonally didn’t have any of that vibe.

If it were Mother! or even The Beguiled, fine. Both of those movies leaned into this unresolved, plot-less fever dream of surrealism. But The Favourite never earned it. It was practicable and grounded throughout the entire film. You don’t get to spring a tonal shift with random ambiguity at me in the last two minutes and call it art. It’s pseudointellectual bullshit that’s fundamentally unfair to your audience. That’s not provocative. That’s not artistic. That’s just sloppy film-making.