Starring: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Running Time: 119 mins
The Favourite is a British film about the life of a frail and aged Queen Anne living in court, while her closest friend governs the country in her place. However, when a new servant arrives at the palace, the power dynamics of the court change dramatically.
As we’ve come to expect from director Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite is a devilishly funny and fiendishly clever affair, complete with a quirky and bizarre story that’s interspersed with moments of real darkness, all furthered by a leading trio of fantastic actresses, and beautiful visuals as far as the eye can see. It may not be quite as ‘out there’ as some of Lanthimos’ other works, but there’s no doubting the brilliance of The Favourite from start to finish.
What’s most striking about this film, in comparison to other pieces from the director, is that it’s actually a rather accessible watch, yet still doesn’t do away with the unique brilliance that makes Lanthimos’ films stand out so much. So, while The Favourite may not have the thrilling weirdness of The Lobster, nor the terrifying deadpan nature of The Killing Of A Sacred Deer or even Dogtooth, it manages to blend a more accessible style of cinema with that unique style in such a way that it still makes for a thoroughly entertaining watch throughout.
Now, when I say entertaining, I mean that this is the sort of film that goes to dark places, and puts an evil grin across your own face, whether you like it or not. Its story centres on the rivalry and lust for power of two women in the court of Queen Anne, and while that plot makes for brilliant excitement, intrigue and tension, it’s played out in such theatrical and often even comical fashion that it’s impossible not to love every single minute of the characters’ backstabbing and Machiavellian movements.
Complete with a striking and brilliantly tense musical score throughout, as well as the striking cinematography and gorgeous production design, the suspense and fire between the two women vying for the Queen’s affections – to become ‘the favourite’ – becomes stunningly palpable throughout, with the film’s middle act in particular seeing all hell break loose in court as the balance of power begins to shift immeasurably.
Of course, there’s no denying the role that the three leading actresses have in this film, and Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Olivia Colman all do a fantastic job from beginning to end. Weisz puts on a strikingly steely and hard-knuckle persona, perfectly encapsulating the scheming and calculating nature of her character as she seeks to maintain her position of power, while Emma Stone proves a fiendishly exciting contrast, playing the cute and innocent handmaiden on the outside, but with just as much, if not even more, intentions for power burning within.
In the middle of the rivalry between Weisz and Stone’s characters, Olivia Colman gives a fantastic performance as a frail, tragic and aged Queen Anne. Not only does she often provide brilliant comic relief to the dark and scheming battles between Weisz and Stone, but Colman also brings the film’s most surprising and riveting dynamic, the role and thoughts of she who is being fought over, something that a lot of films with similar premises fail to pick up on.
So, with great performances and a thoroughly exciting story throughout, there’s only one thing that could make The Favourite any better, and that’s good humour. Once again, the movie isn’t quite on the level of The Lobster when it comes to delivering on the insane comedic front, and there are admittedly parts of its first and particularly third acts that feel a little low-energy in that regard.
However, at its best, the movie is a non-stop laughter fest that combines the intrigue and drama of its fascinating and exciting story with no-holds-barred, off-the-chain comedy, particularly during its exceptional middle act, where the film erupts into a thrilling and hilarious masterpiece all at once. There’s a case to say that the best comedy and best thrills peak a little too early, and that the final act is a little underwhelming, but after such a stunning middle portion with some of the best filmmaking of the year, it’s a very tough act to follow.
Overall, then, I loved The Favourite. Another brilliant gem from director Yorgos Lanthimos, the film is devilishly funny and thoroughly exciting from beginning to end, complete with beautiful visuals and music, three stunning lead performances, riveting dramatic tension, and fantastic humour, which is why I’m giving it an 8.3.