The Favourite

Film, Drama Now showing
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(4user reviews)
The Favourite

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz spar for the affections of their queen in Yorgos Lanthimos's swooningly rude period piece – a royal flush.

We’re watching an extremely luxe pocket of 18th-century regal life in ‘The Favourite’, which means bewigged fops are scheming, the ducks are running (these people don’t lack for strange competitive indoor sports) and the offscreen organist is going for baroque. Even Stanley Kubrick knew to lay off his fish-eye lens once in a while. But Greek-born director Yorgos Lanthimos can’t say no. He warps his period chamber piece – loosely based on the highly competitive court of the unstable Queen Anne – into a Lewis Carroll semi-comic nightmare, piling cattiness upon cattiness.

And what’s not to love about that? The constant visual and verbal bitchery feels like a pent-up release of something churning just under the surface of polite life. If this is your first Lanthimos movie, welcome. Know that you’re a little late to the party: Two of his prior films, the psychosexual meltdown ‘Dogtooth’ (2009), about a family that’s never allowed its grown-up kids to leave the house, and the equally vicious ‘The Lobster’ (2015), went darker and deeper than ‘The Favourite’, Lanthimos’s first that he hasn’t personally written. But like its predecessors, the new one has a sneaky empathy, sitting oddly amid so much bad behavior.

What makes ‘The Favourite’ work are its women – who rule, both literally within the movie and outwardly, dominating our enjoyment. Unlike the similarly set ‘Barry Lyndon’ or ‘Dangerous Liaisons’, which had strong female characters toppled by the whims of strutting cocks, Lanthimos’s latest makes men extraneous, building a potent hothouse atmosphere swirling with secret desires and the hope of being petted. At its wobbly center is, of course, Anne (Olivia Colman, marvelously fickle and cryptic with her own true feelings), who suffers from gout and the deeper insecurity of 17 failed pregnancies. (Her living quarters are strewn with what we’d now call support bunnies.) Adding plainspoken companionship – and, we learn, much more in private – is Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), on hand to tell the queen that she looks like a badger.

When Sarah’s distant cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), appears, she’s been dragged through the mud: a victim of her father’s misspent fortune and diminished name. She gets a job as a scullery maid but, smiling coyly in the queen’s presence, you know she won’t be scrubbing floors for long. Lanthimos is concerned with charting these two trajectories, one downward, the other upward. You’ve seen Weisz curl her lip before (maybe even in ‘The Lobster’), but Stone makes the deeper impression, especially after being elevated to the high spot, where she becomes a lacquered plaything. Ultimately, Lanthimos doesn’t know what to do with either of them, shrewdly developed from actual historical figures who didn’t leave behind much of a climax. ‘The Favourite’ is about the gossipy retelling, anyway, so who needs an ending?

By: Joshua Rothkopf

Posted:

Release details

Rated:
15
Release date:
Tuesday January 1 2019
Duration:
119 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast:
Emma Stone
Rachel Weisz
Olivia Colman

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LiveReviews|4
3 people listening

I am reasonably sure I would rather rewatch Dangerous Liaisons again than endure another work by Lanthimos. The Favourite is definitely anarchic and anti-royal in language and in spirit which in the end is the reason that I enjoyed it, mostly. Nevertheless I agree with the previous comments on the irritating (additional music) score and also that Lanthimos enjoys music out of sinc with the period because he has stated that he's not interested in history of this sort. Performances are strong and if you like Coleman (which I'm not sure if I do) then she's pretty good. Stone & Weisz are excellent.

tastemaker

Definitely a love or hate style of cinematography, but for me, I love Lanthimos's style. If you've seen either of his earlier works (notably The Lobster that won at Cannes) and liked them, then this won't disappoint. 


As previously mentioned, Olivia Colman does truly steal the show with her performance, but I think that shouldn't overshadow Emma Stone who has really put herself on the map as a technicolour actress. The soundtrack can be jarring at times, but this was purposefully so to help create a sense of absurdity. 


Overall, it's a dark comedy that leaves you confused over who to root for and a realistic depiction of vulnerability. 

tastemaker

A fabulous quirky performance from Olivia Colman   A very bawdy vulgar tale, a kind of sophisticated Carry On Queen Anne. The film is being sold as a piece of amazing originality. I'm not so impressed with it's originality, it seemed to me to have borrowed from a number of earlier tales. The period, design & the feel of the film seems to owe a lot to a very early film of Peter Greenaway (1982 :"The Draughtsman Contract" to be specific) Still it is very much owned by the remarkable Olivia Colman, a true original talent.


Lanthimos is rather a 'Marmite' director - there is much to enjoy here but there is also much to irritate, not least the over-intrusive soundtrack. It's also at least 20 minutes or so too long. Still, the script, the acting, and the recreation of this relatively over-looked period of English history are excellent. And that ending...bizarre? pretentious? clever? 'Marmite' indeed...