The Academy Awards are coming up tomorrow night, and it’s important to recognize movies that have been working really really hard for it for a really long time. Nothing is a foregone conclusion, but it would be a huge surprise if there was any awards show or Top Ten list that wouldn’t honor the fourth best movie of 2018…
4. THE FAVORITE (dir. Alexander Payne)
The Favorite stars Glenn Close as former Secretary of State Helen Thomson, a character who is clearly a fictionalized version of Hillary Clinton. After loyally standing by her philandering husband former President Doug Thomson (Jonathan Pryce) and carefully building an esteemed political career in her own right, Helen is finally closing in on her long held dream of becoming President of the United States (having lost her previous bid eight years ago).
By all accounts Helen is the favorite to win, having lined up every endorsement, built an unprecedented political machine, and cleared the field of any serious rivals. The Favorite chronicles all the complications that get in Helen’s way, leaving her ever more chastened and exasperated.
First up is the aging socialist Senator Jerry Goldberg (Elliott Gould), who launches a long shot bid against her in the primaries. He inexplicably becomes more popular than her, especially among the young, and nearly defeats her much larger more established campaign.
Next, Helen faces off against the wild, unpredictable racist game show host Geoffrey Popper (Anthony Hopkins) in the general election. Helen had been looking forward to running against Geoffrey (with her campaign hoping he would be the nominee against her), thinking him manifestly unfit to lead, thus further cementing her status as The Favorite.
But despite being clownish, possibly demented, and likely involved in multiple extramarital affairs and sexual assaults, polls remain close. In the end, Popper wins due to a technicality despite receiving fewer votes.
The final part of The Favorite shows the absolute emotional and psychological breakdown of a character who was certain of her destiny, and did every single thing you’re supposed to do to assure that destiny, only to find it snatched a way by what can only be seen as the most cruel and absurd fate. It’s in this part of the movie that Glenn Close truly shines, and gives a performance that should make her the favorite to win Best Actress at the Academy Awards this year.
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