Quick Hit: Deliciously decadent and full of filth as well.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s last couple films were a mixed bag for me. We had The Killing of a Sacred Deer, which was pretty much as black as sin. There was also The Lobster, which had amusing moments as well as being a dark film full of death. So I was expecting a much darker film when I went into The Favourite. It’s definitely a dark comedy, but there is no doubt that it is a comedy.
The film follows the exploits of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) as she navigates the court in the midst of a war with France. She is rarely without her lady in waiting, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), who is a lifelong friend of the Queen and ministers to her every need. Their world is changed when Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives from the country, covered in mood and asking for a chance to serve for her cousin, Lady Sarah. Sarah eventually sees in her an intelligent pawn to be used in her game, which consists of manipulating the court, such as Leader of the Opposition, Lord Harley (Nicholas Hoult).
The film eventually begins to spiral as Abigail climbs first into a position of favor (hence the title) and then a position of power. So much of the film hinges on the performance of Stone, and she is nothing but fantastic. She is able to give the smallest of glances that betray her true intentions, but yet, she portrays an innocence throughout, even when it has eventually come too far. Weisz is her foil and is just as terrific, nothing but power and pure honesty throughout the film, even in her weakest moments. But both are dwarfed by the Titanic performance seen in Colman, whose Queen Anne is equal parts disgusting and imposing, whimsical as well as pitiful. Whereas the film hinges on the relationship between Weisz and Stone, the film rests on Colman who is glorious in her role.
So much of the look and feel of the film can be attributed to the production design. Every part of the palace seems stuffed with… well, stuff. Paintings, mirrors, vases, all are there, but there are also windows and tapestries and huge four poster beds. The look of the costumes can also be mentioned, because their delicious and play well with the design of the sets – whereas the sets are constantly reflected in shadow, the black and white costume palette pops to catch your eye. Lanthimos helps this by using a wide array of filming techniques, and here is the only part of the film I can detract. For some reason, he consistently uses a fish-eyed lens. This creates, at times, a dizzying effect that is a bit too much. It’s almost as if, in the spirit of the excess of the royalty, some rubbed off on Lanthimos too.
But despite it all, I was constantly entertained by The Favourite. The dialogue does everything short of crackle and pop, because it is wickedly smart. It’s full of puns and witticisms, and sexually charged to boot. When given to these extremely talented actresses, there is nothing more that can be asked for. It’s as delightful as oh, a piece of cake. I’m giving The Favourite an “A”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"