The Favourite is the latest offering from Yorgos Lanthimos. The unconventional director behind such eccentric films as The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer is back with by far his most accessible film to date. The Favourite is dripping in biting dialogue, exceptional camerawork, and three flawless performances from its leading ladies.
Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne, the frail monarch of England during the early 18th century. She is suffering from an increasingly worse condition of gout and must contend with a current war with France. Luckily, she has her closest friend and advisor, the Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz, to essentially govern the country so she needn’t worry about such matters. This is all turned on its head with the arrival of Emma Stone’s Abigail, Sarah’s disgraced cousin, who comes to court seeking a job. Once Anne notices Abigail, the two cousins begin to fight for her majesty’s affections as they attempt to become the favourite.
This film is comprised of tense encounters and moments of manipulation that will make you think you’re almost watching an episode of Game of Thrones with the addition of the whacky dark comedy that Lanthimos is known for. Every interaction is so meticulously scripted, and the actors do an unbelievable job of delivering each line. Colman is the standout here, which is no small feat when she’s performing opposite Oscar winning heavyweights like Weisz and Stone. Truly, Anne is a grotesque and Colman is fearless in her portrayal of her, unafraid of appearing ugly or undesirable, her work here cannot be undersold. As the film is an awards frontrunner, it would be an amazing moment to see someone like Colman grace the Academy Award’s stage on the 25 February.
It’s amazing to see three strong and complex female characters at the heart of this story. Each one is so incredibly different and watching them spar with each other here is mesmerising. One male cast member worth noting is Nicholas Hoult who is clearly relishing the peculiar role of Mr. Harley, the leader of the opposition. Hoult manages to induce an extra dose of tension (if that were even possible) as he attempts to control Abigail for political gain but he gives the character such an oddness and is responsible for some of the most funny lines in the film.
As usual the direction is stellar. Including a fish eye lens and framing shots from strange unpredictable angles, you can tell this is one of Lanthimos’s films if you’re familiar with his previous work. The costumes and makeup are breath-taking and the score is fantastic. If I had to find something wrong here then I’d say the ending will be a little too ambiguous for some. But if it works for you or not, the final shot is astonishing.
Throughout, you’ll constantly be trying to guess who is manipulating who and watching these three actors at the top of their game share the screen with dialogue and direction like this is such a treat. I implore you to see The Favourite if you can, come join the madness.