‘The Great’ Review: ‘The Favourite’ Writer Tony McNamara Adds a Dash of Romance to His Signature Sharp Satire
Posted on Friday, May 1st, 2020 by Hoai-Tran Bui
There’s something a little wicked about an anachronistic romp through history. The period drama is often upheld as the height of sophistication, the kind of genre that radiates prestige and award-winning costume designs. So when you pair that with raunchy dialogue and a sharp satirical edge that punches through the costume drama veneer like a poison-tipped sabre, it all feels so naughty.
Tony McNamara seems to be making a habit out of these kind of historical indiscretions. The Oscar-winning writer of The Favourite has penned a new satirical take on a historical figure with the Hulu comedy series The Great, which chronicles the “occasionally true” rise of Catherine the Great (Elle Fanning), from naïve outsider to the most famous female ruler in Russian history. Just like the Yorgos Lanthimos 2018 black comedy that earned McNamara an Oscar, The Great is a cheeky comedy that lacerates the stodgy period drama as we come to accept it — yes, the show is all heaving bosoms and displays of decadence, but they say fuck and they fuck a lot. But while The Great may have its tongue firmly in its cheek (and in, um, other places), it lacks some of the teeth of The Favourite, even as McNamara recycles some of the character dynamics from his script — right down to the maid who comes from aristocracy, and a lady in waiting in bed with the ruler. Also there are so many rabbits.