Believe it or not, this is the first movie I’ve ever witnessed from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. He made a name for himself over the past two years with The Lobster (2016) and The Killing of a Scared Deer (2017), which I had a strong feeling that I won’t appreciate them like everyone else did when they came out. His latest period piece, The Favoruite, may not look that interesting at first glance, but after the first 20 minutes, you’re already in for a crazy tale.
What’s the Story: In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne, and her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail Masham (Emma Stone), arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.
Period pieces aren’t really my bread and butter when it comes to the genre because it becomes a common thread when it has some fantastic costumes and performances (usually British) that can’t do wrong, but they’re boring or doesn’t leave a huge impact after it’s over. The Favoruite started gaining my attention after seeing the trailer so many times and it’s probably one of the few movies to check out before the year ends. Word of mouth has been pretty strong with this ever since it premiered at Venice, and now seeing it in limited release, The Favourite exceeded my expectations if you asked me.
Lanthimos’ style of direction is what kept me interested because of its use of wide shots, fisheye lenses and smooth pans that’s pretty uncommon for a film set in this time period. And what I love about the directing is that Lanthimos uses natural light in most of the scenes where it has candles kind in the way Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon was used, which is contributed to the stunning cinematography from Robbie Ryan.
But if you want to see a film that has three great female performances that will be on your mind after it’s over, this is the one to spend. Colman, Stone, and Weisz gave some of the best performances in their respective way. Anybody can see some sympathy for all three of these characters. Queen Anne has many problems at the moment like a sore on her leg and having 17 bunnies that remind her of the 17 children she lost in the past. This is Weisz’s best role in years when she really becomes close with the Queen when her husband is off fighting the war. Personally, Stone was the one who really stood out from the rest of the ensemble. Not just because I love her, but her character, Abigail, has a bit more sympathy against her when she’s literally dumped and needs help from her Sarah, her cousin.
It has a good tone throughout where it has its favor share of dark comedy and the drama that’s to be expected with a story like this. And that’s a credit to Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara’s clever and devious screenplay that’s pretty unexpected. Filled with accelerate dialogue and moments of insane, duck shootings, and other offbeat things that Lanthimos fans would understand, the story is brilliant. Best of all is that it gives its leads a lot to work with.
The Favoruite also feels a bit relevant to today’s political side where you have a group of people you work with try their hardest to be the best they can. England politics can stray from not knowing what’s going on in between scenes to push the story along. And yet, it wasn’t needlessly complicated to understand what’s happening. Competing to be the best isn’t always the best thing when kissing up to their superior. It then becomes a rivalry between Abigail and Sarah to compete for Anne’s attention.
Also have to give credit to the great production design and Sandy Powell’s costume design, which her style never ceases to amaze me when she puts together outfits that fit a certain period of time.
As for problems, I’d say the third act tended to drag and it’s a shame since this ended up being a well-paced drama right up until at moment.
It’s always nice to see Fox Searchlight put an award contender since they usually wind up winning at least something almost every year. And The Favoruite is definitely a true Oscar contender.
Surprised to say The Favourite is truly one of the best movies of the year. It’s the one period piece that didn’t leave board out of my mind and it was actually engaging all the way through. And trust me, between this and Mary Queen of Scots, most of the attention will be directed toward a much better movie. Is this movie for everyone? No. But it’s worth it just for the performances and the story alone.
The Favoruite lens into becoming a excellent period drama topped with Lanthimos’ flawless direction alongside a great ensemble and a script that comes alive at almost every moment.
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