The world of Yorgos Lanthimos is a bizarre yet beautiful one. From bored teenagers in Dogtooth to animals in The Lobster, there is something about the filmmaker’s mind that you want to immerse yourself completely in; soaking in every stilted word, every bizarre premise, and every Colin Farrell mustache.
Although there is no Farrell facial hair here, Lanthimos is on top form with The Favourite. Blending voluptuous and superb British period dramas with the humour as black as their dresses, Lanthimos produces his most accessible movie yet.
Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, The Favourite tells the story of the later years of Queen Anne. Miserable, gluttonous, and egomaniacal, Anne spends her life stuck in the walls of her stately home. Her council is led (and manipulated) by Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough who uses her status as the Queens confidant to pull the strings of war. When Sarah’s cousin Abigail arrives, the pair find themselves locked in a battle for the admirations and love of Anne. Who will win in their sick vying?
The Favourite is certainly one of those movies in which you’ll happily feast upon. It’s an impeccable balance between this ornate and gorgeous Stuart time period whilst also having cutting modern humour surrounding it. Playing fast and loose with classical language and updated curse words, the fluidity of the dialogue mixed with the satirical comedy brings a fresh beat to stuffy period dramas. There are some hilarious one-liners that’ll be trotted out for years to come.
Shot by natural light, Lanthimos’ updated black comedy looks divine. Filmed at Hatfield House, the large and gorgeous spaces lend themselves to some pretty beautiful scene set ups (as well as echoing the tedium and the emptiness that is rife here. The décor is ornate and splendid whilst Sandy Powell’s impressive costuming harkens back to the era immensely. The detail on display here is fantastic, including mud splatters, tears, and more.
There has been much talk about what actress deserves what award. Indeed, this is a film of three leads. Olivia Colman, who has been an undeniable tour-de-force on British programming and movies finally gets the royal role she’s been waiting for. Here she plays her Queen as petulant child but the bratty behaviour is not merely from her status and wealth, but also from her grief. She’s a pained woman – physically and emotionally – and her work is phenomenal here.
Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play two different breed of players. The former, as Sarah, is a more pragmatic in her approach. She’s honest, if albeit unkind, and one of the few people who does not play into the Queen’s whimsy. So naturally when Stone’s sweet and ambitious Abigail comes as a fallen Lady turned scullery maid, Sarah finds herself matched in manipulation and drive. The pair make great enemies, using Anne’s fancies and desires as a ploy so when the final hits, it smarts for all three.
There’s also great support from Fop Nicholas Hoult (who is clearly having the best time,) and Joe Alwyn make adequate male accompaniments but fail to shine under the shadows of this brilliant trio.
The Favourite is intriguing and beguiling. Yet it does not have a satisfactory conclusion. In fact, as the film progresses into its final chapters, it struggles to muster to sharp wit and interest as the first hour or so caught. Though this may be the case, Lanthimos’ work is a delicious one and you’ll want to gorge on repeatedly.
Until you vomit.
Then want to gorge again.
The Favourite is out Boxing Day in West End Cinemas
It is out New Year’s Day!