The Favourite Movie Review
Yorgos Lanthimos’ THE FAVORITE is another impressively directed film that might finally get him closer to the recognition he deserves. Ironically, it is not my favorite of his work, but it is, once again, one of the best of the year (click the link to read my Ten Best Movies of 2018). Stepping away from his usual writing duties, the strange, dark, and humorous screenplay is written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara.
Taking place in early 18th century England, THE FAVOURITE follows an emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically unstable, Queen Anne, played to perfect, powerful pitifulness by Olivia Colman. The Queen’s best friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), governs the country when the Queen is ill, which Lady Sarah manipulates to be all the time. However, a shake up occurs when a distant relative and new servant, Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives. Abigail is not afraid to get dirty as she endures pain and poo weaving into the smallest cracks to become the charming new bestie of the Queen. This power struggle to manipulate and rule the kingdom as Abigail and Lady Sara battle for the Queen’s affection is a twisted, hilarious nightmare that might be perceived as an 18th century bureaucratic MEAN GIRLS.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos is, in my opinion, one of the most gifted directors of our generation. That might be hyperbolic but after his previous films, THE LOBSTER and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER , I believe we are witnessing a director with his own unique brand name the same way we might describe something by saying, Kurbrickian or Hitchcockian. Perhaps Lanthimosian? Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. I’ve written something similar to this before and I understand he has not earned the respect that Kubrick and Hitchcock have achieved with their impressive library, but I believe Lanthimos is on the right track.
Lanthimos implements an unusual perspective through a fish eye lens for many of the scenes. Much like his characters, the audience is provided a distorted view on the world these characters inhabit. The people are selfish, deceitful, and mean, looking out for their own gain while toying with a war that is never seen. The battle within the walls of the castle is where the focus lies. The filmmakers are not afraid to highlight the absurdity of all the enhanced madness by making the dark subject matter particularly humorous.
The cinematography, art direction, music, and even the costuming aid THE FAVOURITE in its overall vision of absurdism. As Abigail strengthens her hold on the Queen, Lady Sarah continues to be blocked figuratively and literally. Either with a black wrap across the eye or a wall between a hidden passage, the progression of the story is masterfully told without it being spoken. The technical aspect of THE FAVOURITE is quite impressive by all accounts. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t lend itself to much heart. This might keep the film at arms length for some movie goers turned off by all the wickedness, even if it is poking a little fun at their futile and unfulfilling ways.
The performances by the three leading ladies are among the best of the year. Each of them are able to provide both strength and vulnerability. By finding the humorous beats within their cruelty, all three are able to somehow come off somewhat likable… I stress somewhat. THE FAVOURITE may not be for everyone, but there is no denying the fine craftsmanship that brings all these oddly exquisite elements together in this twisted tale.