The Favourite - 2018
Director(s): Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer(s): Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Cinematography by: Robbie Ryan
Editor(s): Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Cast: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, Nicholas Hoult, John Locke and Basil Eidenbenz
A Yorgos Lanthimos' film has been on top of my most anticipated lists for the past two years. If you are not familiar with that name pick any of his sixth feature-length films and you will quickly understand. His dark comedic tone and out of the box storytelling, are his signature traits that are ever present in all his films. After watching his latest, The Favourite, he is tied with Denis Villeneuve (in my heart), as the most consistent director working today. Let's talk about it.
The story takes place in 1700's Britain in the middle of a war with the French. The frail Queen Anne (Colman) is more concerned with her seventeen rabbits, leaving running the country to her most trusted confidant Sarah Churchill the Duchess of Marlborough (Weisz), creating a divide within her court. When Sarah's cousin, Abigail (Stone), comes to work at the palace, a game of chess for the Queen's affection starts between them. Davis and McNamara's script took historical characters and created plausible scenarios that played behind closed doors. The way they tackle depression, power, love, and manipulation within the same story is beyond impressive, as none of these elements feel out of place. The relationships are all complex and compelling, with each conversation having subtle, and not so subtle, double meanings. What I appreciated about the script is how all the actions are character motivated, you understand the moves both Abigail and Sarah make throughout the film, as their roles are clearly defined.
Yorgos continues to be the unique voice working today. While you can see his sense of humor and stylistic choices reflected in all his films, they do not feel as if he is rehashing ideas or sequences, as all his entries come across refreshingly original in a cinematic landscape obsessed with IPs and universes. Haunting score creates a balance between the whimsy and beauty of the world we see, yet it never veers far from the dark undertone of all the chess moves made around the queen. When paired with glorious set and costume design, it feels like you are in a living-breathing painting. While this is a departure from his usual settings, period piece, his darkly comedic tone worked perfectly with how absurd royalty can be (duck races and over the top ballroom dances) compared to our time. The closing scene has been replaying in my head since I saw it and is one that I look forward to re-watching.
Quick note: there was an element in the cinematography, the fisheye lens, that took me out a bit of the experience. Not sure what was the purpose of this choice, and while it didn't damper my overall experience, it did hinder the scenes it was employed.
The acting across the board is marvelous. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone both underplay their intention with displays of affection and adoration towards the Queen. Their banter is devilish entertaining, and their chemistry is enthralling. Nicholas Hoult plays a pompous aristocrat that constantly locks horns against the strong-willed Weisz. It is hard to pull off that wig and still be menacing. However, this movie belongs to Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. Her acting felt effortless, as she embodied her character from the way her facial expressions shifted depending on her audience, to her playful tone when coercing Weisz to stay with her and play with her rabbits. He bipolar, manic-depressive moments felt natural and part of her as if she has always expressed herself in this matter. Colman also had incredible chemistry with both Stone and Weisz, further selling this triangle of love and power.
The Favourite is a dark comedy period piece that perfectly creates a balance between dramatic tension and laugh out loud moments of absurdity. Yorgos has yet to miss with one of his entries, and I hope that he continues to explore different genres for his unique style and point of view. This film has everything going for it; the set and costume design, the editing, the haunting score, and the acting all deserve the praise it has gotten and so much more. But if you walk away with something, let it be the powerhouse performance of Olivia Colman, she is why I love movies.
The Favourite is currently playing in theaters. Watch it.
If you like this review let me know in the comment section down below. Subscribe to my newsletter so you are always up to date with all my reviews. Also, follow me over at Twitter (@yILovemovies) or over on Facebook if you want to have a conversation about movies.