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The Favourite (2018) - Movie Review

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The Favourite - Movie Review

Think The Favourite is just another drab royal period piece? Think again. First, this film is from Yorgos Lanthimos who brought us the twisted The Killing of a Sacred Deer and the ambitious The Lobster. The guy is simply one of the most enigmatic filmmakers going right now. That reason alone is enough to recommend this period drama that defies its genre tropes and leans heavily into the bizarre intersection of politics, betrayal, revenge, power, and sexuality that is simply a whole lot of fun to watch.

Secondly, the film doesn’t rely so heavily on beautiful period costumes, lavish set dressings, and stuffy dialogue as do most films of the genre. Don’t get me wrong. There is plenty of that. But if you’ve seen any of Lanthimos’ previous work, you know what you’re in for. And it is certainly anything but stuffy and drab.

"The Favourite is a devilishly funny little piece of period work with Lanthimos at the controls of our emotions as he masterfully balances the story’s tragedy and wit with a trio of top-notch performances."

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Let’s begin with the cast. Lanthimos clearly loves working with Rachel Weisz (the two paired up previously in 2015’s The Lobster) and the affection must be mutual as the actress is near brilliant with her acerbic Lady Sarah Churchill who is friend, confidante, and advisor to Queen Anne (Olivia Colman, Murder on the Orient Express), ruler of 17th Century England. Where Queen Anne is a wishy-washy coward at times, Lady Sarah is anything but as she handles the everyday affairs of state for the ailing Queen including a raging war against the French. Weisz’s razor-sharp wit and ruthlessly sly cunning marks what may be one of her best performances and should certainly keep her in mind for awards season.

Arriving unannounced at the estate is Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), cousin to Lady Sarah who takes work as a Palace servant. But it isn’t long before Abigail has wormed her way into the good graces of the Queen with hopes of regaining her high place in British society that was lost when her father squandered the family fortune and burned their house down. However, her expeditious move from servant to housemaid doesn’t go unnoticed by Lady Sarah who soon enough sets in motion a plan to have the young maid removed the palace grounds.

But the Queen will have none of that and it is this battle between the two that sets in motion a despicable yet delicious three-way love/hate relationship that we just love watching implode upon itself. Neither of the three has much of anything resembling a moral compass. In fact, each is simply a downright ruthless and despicable human being as this struggle for power rages on.

Credit Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara whose brilliantly multi-layered script – filled with whip-smart quips, snappy rejoinders and biting satire – pulls from today’s fetid political climate and sets it amidst the gilded tapestries and stodgy demure of 17th century England. Combine that with the highly experimental cinematography of Robbie Ryan (including fish eye lenses and anamorphic widescreen), Johnnie Burn’s musical score, the gorgeous production design from Fiona Crombie and the entire experience feels like some kind of vivid nightmarish fever dream that plays perfectly into the film’s black-hearted intentions. The whole production is a perfectly executed thing of beauty and a true masterpiece that works only because everyone involved is operating at full potential. And credit Lanthimos for balancing everything to perfection.

The Favourite - Movie Review

But none of it works without the three wonderful performances from Colman, Stone and Weisz. It is difficult to overstate the strength of the trio’s contribution to the success of the film. At the top of that heap is Colman who stands out as the overly-dramatic Queen who would just as soon be off with your head as she would be sharing her next meal. It would certainly surprise if she isn’t recognized by the Academy for her performance here. In fact, any of the three carry strong arguments for their respective categories as well as the film in its category, and Lanthimos in his. The Academy loves this kind of stuff and so should you.

The Favourite is a devilishly funny little piece of period work with Lanthimos at the controls of our emotions as he masterfully balances the story’s tragedy and wit with a trio of top-notch performances. It is certainly not for everyone, but period film lovers will eat this up for its ironic twist on England’s Royal history while others will appreciate its pure entertainment value and themes that ring true some 300+ years later.

5 stars

The Favourite - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.
Runtime:
119 mins
Director
: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writer:
Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
Cast:
Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Genre
: Comedy | Drama | History
Tagline:

Memorable Movie Quote: "You look like a badger."
Theatrical Distributor:
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Official Site: www.foxsearchlight.com/thefavourite/
Release Date:
November 23, 2018
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne (Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) governs the country in her stead. When a new servant Abigail (Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.

The Favourite - Movie Review

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The Favourite - Movie Review

 

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