The Favourite Film Review
The Favourite is Yorgos Lanthimos’s 6th directorial motion picture project. The Favourite is his 5th solo directorial effort, and second with Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz in the cast (after The Lobster).
Set in early 18th century, Olivia Colman is Queen Anne in The Favourite. A frail, almost incompetent queen that happens to be waging a war with the French. She also spends most of her time eating, playing with her 17 rabbits and organizing a goose races in her court. Oh and she’s enjoying the company of her trusted advisor and secret lover Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). Sara is in fact running the court, engaging in diplomacy and taking care of the ill queen while her husband is battling on the battlefront. Sarah is blunt, resilient and sometimes crass but she’s efficient and determined.
However, her position as the Queen’s favorite will be interrupted by the arrival of Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) – Sarah’s younger cousin who’s fallen on hard times after her father sold her in order to settle a debt. Abigail will start of as a scullery maid in the palace, but with a dash of intrigue and dirty tricks, quickly climb the ranks of being the Queen’s favorite.
The Favourite is a sophisticated comedy disguised as a period piece biopic. Queen Anne is not one of history’s most memorable queens, and Hollywood has avoided making a movie about her, but her life (and the lives of the 2 women around her) seems very fascinating to be honest. And what Yorgos Lanthimos along with the 2 screenwriters did here is the perfect introduction of all 3 characters in a matter of minutes. 5 to be precise. And in those 5 minutes, Lanthimos reveals and presents the 3 characters beautifully. You get to know their background, their relationships, their characters, their agendas and their present status in society. In much of those 5 minutes, no words are needed actually and that’s fine. You understand them perfectly.
The 3 main characters provide the character study of The Favourite, white the other (predominantly male characters) provide the political and societal representation of early 18th century. We get to witness the thoughts of the opposition regarding the war, and the strategic maneuvering of Queen’s army advisers during the war. Oh, and we get to see the debauchery of the men and women in Queen Anne’s court (in a bizarre slow-mow shots), but that’s a whole another story within itself.
But those themes are supporting in nature, much like the characters themselves. The rivalry between the 2 women for the attention and social status of the third one is in the focus here in The Favourite, and for good reason. We realize that each of the 3 women is using each other to gain something. Whether it’s social status, money, security, or simply love and affection every single one of them wants something. Lanthimos used plenty of long angle shots for the dialogue scenes and wide angle lenses on a dolly for all of the scenes that in the long and dark hallways of Anne’s palace.
It’s staggering to see such low angles in a period piece movies but given the nature of the film, they serve a purpose. To show the twisted and very co-depended relationships that Anne, Sarah and Abbigail have in The Favourite. There’s plenty of mind games, intrigues and back-stabbing here and they pair well with the eclectic camera work of Lanthimos and the dark/twisted cinematography of Robbie Ryan.
But one can’t deny the fantastic performances of the 3 actresses too. Colman and Weisz are stellar here, but so is Emma Stone. I’m not very fond of her British accent in The Favourite, but her performance is superb. In fact I found her character most fascinating of them all. She’s cunning as she’s ruthless and she’s unapologetic about it up to the point to being a sociopath. You can say that you almost feel sorry for her, but you should actually.
And you definitely shouldn’t miss The Favourite too.