The Favourite (2018)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos | Runtime: 1h 59mins | Comedy, Drama
In 18th Century England, the fragile Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) runs the country alongside her closest companion Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Their relationship is put in jeopardy when the seemingly innocent Abigail (Emma Stone) comes to the palace looking for work.
Lanthimos’ latest film has a combination of comparisons, like the occasional frame sharing the same beauty as Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon and the quick witted nature and deceitfulness of Dangerous Liaisons. Maybe the biggest similarity is to the 1950 Oscar winner All About Eve, As Lady Sarah’s on the surface charisma and boldness becomes threatened by the polite and seemingly innocent Abigail, a relationship that parallels Bette Davis and Anne Baxter clashing heads all those years ago.
Don’t mistake these similarities for lack of imagination though, Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most unique directors working today, and he ups his game even more with The Favourite. The off-beat humour bashes at all the sophistication of 18th Century England, throwing c-bombs out frequently and plays on the traditions of its setting (see slow motion apple throwing at a naked man). But it’s not all about setting and Lanthimos knows that, he sticks to a wide angle lens throughout to really capture the grandeur of the palace but also the loneliness of it’s three main characters, not only that but it gives the film the added style period pieces can sometimes lack. In some respect this is the least weird Lanthimos film out there, but still has his unique style in abundance.
One of the best parts of this film is watching three of the best actress around working at the top of their game. Whether it be Rachel Weisz’s strong and power hungry Lady Sarah, who ultimately succumbs to vulnerability, Emma Stone’s deceitful, Anne Baxter type, or Olivia Coleman’s childish and frail Queen Anne. No matter who you think is the ‘favourite’ (Olivia Coleman is a personal choice), each actress is on top form using Davis and McNamara’s exquisite writing to layer each character, and the overall power play that fuels the dynamic between the three leads.
With pitch perfect performances and a witty script, The Favourite is so nearly flawless. There is a slightly forgettable side plot and questionable fish eye lenses, but it can be forgiven, because this is Yorgos Lanthimos’ most accommodating film that, when in full flow, never misses a beat.