One year after his magnificently disturbing ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’, Yorgos Lanthimos returns with this historical comedy/drama based on Queen Anne’s life. It’s the first ever film not to be penned by Lanthimos and it faintly shows but the context, acting and absurd re-telling of history are worthy of fanfare.
Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is suffering with poor health and cannot even seem to sustain interest in politics for her country. The majority of her time and interest is spent on her relationship with Duchess of Marlborough, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz). However, when Sarah’s cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) arrives and Sarah gives her a position it isn’t long until the Queen takes a liking to the new girl and thus a rivalry to be Anne’s favourite begins.
Scripted by Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara, what really solidifies the engagement with this film is the sheer absurdity of it all. The fact that it is all based on real people and true actions of the time only go and make this a more interesting story to behold. If you didn’t know about the triangle of female figures between Anne, Sarah and Abigail you’d be let off for thinking this was a bonkers yet brilliant made up farce.
The Lanthimos trademark of entrancing camera work and aptitudes to building kooky and precise landscapes are utilised to great effect in this film. Robbie Ryan’s stunning English set cinematography and movements of panning cameras coupled with uses of the fisheye lens make ‘The Favourite’ a bold looking film finely textured with regal style.
It can be said that, from a Yorgos feature, this doesn’t go as dark and twisted as you’d imagine but it is instead lit up like a grand palace by touches of theatrical humour and spite. The wiles of women and their strength become a fascinating game to watch. Special mention must also go toward the costuming; the baroque draping of dresses, corsets, ruffles and wigs are positively dripping in luxurious splendour and go a long way to making this tale more pristine and attention-grabbing.
Colman takes the throne and wheelchair as a perfect choice for Queen Anne. She hilariously and alarmingly spits out when prone to raging, alongside these bursts of anger are fantastic moments where Colman shows her knack for emotion and comedic timing. Stone develops the strongest in terms of character, she showcases the most effective change from mud covered servant to lady. Weisz is a formidable performer, the icy bluntness of Sarah reigns supreme and together Stone and she light up the screen with their scheming as they vie for the attentions and affections of a scene-stealing Colman. Nicholas Hoult is note-perfect in this also, he plays an Earl named Robert with exquisite definition of the C-word and further insults.
‘The Favourite’ is an absurd delight; what with it’s incredible trio of leading ladies and the sending up of royal and political establishments, this is a film rich with smart asides. It also boasts a dance scene to perhaps rival the memorable moves from Isaac & Mizuno in ‘Ex Machina’ and the dual jiving of Thurman & John in ‘Pulp Fiction’.