The Favourite sees director Yorgos Lanthimos cement himself as one of our greatest working directors, leading a trio of brilliant performances from his three female leads.
Those leads, Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah, Emma Stone as Abigail, are based rather loosely on history, but the specifics of this plot shouldn’t be considered stone cold facts. Still, the script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara paints an entertaining portrait of politics, sex, lies and power, as it bounces among the three aforementioned women. Queen Anne is losing it, Lady Sarah is as cunning as a puppet master can be, while Abigail seeks to claw her way from the bottom. The whole tale is told with brilliant dark humor, impeccable pacing and a biting use of all of the curse words. The C-word has rarely been so deftly utilized.
Lanthimos has quickly climbed the ranks of my favorite filmmakers over the past couple of films, and it is great/impressive to see him handle himself just as expertly, even when the script isn’t one of his own creations; a first for him. This is more visually a piece to his last film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, with long corridors and a camera that always keeps you a bit removed from the action, but it feels more kinetic and experimental this time out, bringing the potentially drab period setting to life. He also has tossed aside the affected tone of his previous films, and allowed his actors to really dig into their parts. Everyone is at least a tad over the top, but the way he films it and cuts it all together it feels totally appropriate. There really isn’t a juxtaposition of the class system of the time here, but the opulence and stupidity on display by the upper crust here is more than enough as a damning critique of the elite.
The music in the film also works wonders, filled with classical pieces, both old and new, that accompany the visuals thrown up on the screen to perfection. I need this soundtrack, if possible, as it is both bouncy and weighty in all of the right places. It is a big part of setting the tone of the picture, and even though the actress can handle that on their own, it is still an excellent complement to mayhem that often pops up on-screen.
Speaking of the cast, let’s throw them some more praise, starting with the queen herself. Colman as Anne is just a sight to behold. She is desperate, charming, coy, brash and absurd all at once, and Colman peels back layers as the film moves along. There comes a point midway through the film where you realize she might not be as aloof and puppeted as Lady Sarah would like you to think, making Colman’s performance all the more heart wrenching at times. You, somehow, feel for this women, caught up in this game of favourties, even if she probably doesn’t really deserve any of your sympathy; well, those rabbits.
Rachel Weisz is just as excellent as Lady Sarah, as she where’s a million masks and never lets anyone in on what exactly is going on; until she grabs you by the throat and lets you know. Weisz’s charm works the most on me, and this look for her feels completely fresh from the seasoned actress, yet is entirely in her wheelhouse. I will watch her in anything, and will always be rewarded.
Emma Stone takes third place for me among these women, but she is nothing to sneeze at. In most other films she would easily take the cake and is the perfect foil to Lady Sarah. The role is also a flex for Stone, who just keeps getting better with each part, and I love seeing her get to play the black hat for the first time in her career. More please! Nicholas Hoult is the other standout worth mentioning, as he also excels at playing conniving and manipulative as the leader of the opposition party in Parliament. He’s a blast every time he pops up and he is utilized to the perfect effect.
The Favourite is one of my favorite films of the year and I can’t wait to rewatch to catch not just the performances again, but dive deeper into all the cuts in the script. Lanthimos continues to be one of my favorite directors and the trio of women at the lead are some of the best performances you will see all year. Do. Not. Miss.