Title: The Favourite
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Runtime: 2 hrs
What It Is: When Abigail Hill (Stone) arrives at the Court in 1708 to work as a maid, she warms up to the sickly and depressive Queen Anne (Colman) as an attempt to regain her ladyship after the fall of her family fortune much to the chagrin and suspicion of her wise and methodical cousin, the queen’s royal advisor Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Weisz). Tensions arise between the cousins as they manipulate in order to compete for the Queen’s love and favor in this comedy-drama period piece.
What We Think: Certainly the most palatable movie of his, The Favourite serves as a deliciously smart and wicked crowd pleaser—it is difficult to remember that it still stands as a film about politics. Its dark humour is sharp and the writing between the dueling characters savage; the salty tongues featured are evocative of the likes of Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in The Lion in Winter. Carrying (if not perfecting) Lanthimos’s quirky sense of perverse comedy and natural moments of sympathetic humanity, this film is by far the most polished, if not one of the most polished releases of the year. Professionally balancing the biting humour and the grueling drama, it also serves as cinema porn. Visually stunning set pieces and gorgeous costumes result in a sophisticated and authentic production. The camerawork is certainly unique, often utilizing a near fish-eye-like lens and slow, sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable pans. There are many a low-angle, sometimes making it feel like we’re children looking up at the characters (reminding me of the point-of-view film Russian Ark). Everything is a joy to look at, every frame a painting. The score is well done and comes to a riveting climax, as you’ll see. The casting, as per usual a Lanthimos film, is on point. The strong cast features some badass leads—Stone, Weisz, and Colman give raw, amusing, and confident performances, some of the strongest I’ve seen this year. All play well-rounded characters with depth, motivation, and best of all, life. Not once was I bored during this film. The audience was constantly either chuckling or held captive in a character’s intense struggle. The story is fluid and is sure to not overstay its welcome. It perfectly encompasses the ridiculousness, politics, and misery of the period (and, spoilers… I love it).
Our Grade: A, I’ve been a steady observer of Lanthimos’s work over the years. An offered anecdote: I generally appreciate his style of directing, the depth and execution of his satire, and his ability to conceive original story in an original way. That being said, I haven’t been quite as floored by his filmography as I feel is deserved of yet… until this film. Elegant yet at times awkward and vulgar, entertaining yet bleak, pretty yet violent, absurd yet palpable, Lanthimos’s latest release is a shining example of a sure-to-be-classic that manages to attract an audience without having to sacrifice intellect. If you can catch this artistic release, do so—you’ll be doing yourself a favor.