Exceptional performances from Colman, Weisz and Stone assist this black comedy in standing out from all other period dramas, you won't have seen anything quite like it.
With director Yorgos Lanthimos making quite the name for himself back in 2015 with the success of dystopian film The Lobster, you’d expect nothing less from his recent historical picture, and you certainly will not be disappointed. Set in 18th century England The Favourite features the talents of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as it tells the tongue-in-cheek tale of two cousins’ rivalry in seeking favouritism from Queen Anne.
The story unfolds in chapters and the sheer extravagance of the way these chapters are presented make for an entertaining caricature of history. The fundamental component of the film that should be praised is the marvellous performance given by a predominantly female cast. Olivia Colman delivers a humorous take on Queen Anne; sporting traits of tragedy, self-hatred and childlike naivety, she is most definitely the perfect actress to take on such a demanding role. A character with so many personality flaws may become jarring to many audiences but Colman delivers her neediness and tantrums with a charm that invites sympathy. Rachel Weisz once again provides a cold and abrasive performance in playing the Queen’s secret lover, Sarah Churchill, and the sparks of androgyny that inhabit her character make for an interesting watch. Of all the performances, however, there is one that exceeds expectation and that is Emma Stone’s. The role is worlds apart from her typical goofy girl-next-door persona, but she plays Abigail Hill with grace and efficiency without scarifying an ounce of her wit. The themes of homoeroticism are handled with taste and delivered well by all three actresses as their on-screen chemistry is clear to see.
The intricacies of costume and set design are to be applauded, and although the nature of the story may not have been entirely accurate, the look and feel of the film is certainly authentic. However, I was made to feel dizzy by the camera movements and the many wide-angle shots present throughout the film. Do these need to be there? Maybe not, but do they add to the weird yet wonderful nuance of the film, setting it apart from all other period dramas? Certainly. It is these unusual stylistic decisions that make the film so unique and prevent it from becoming a yawn-fest that so many period dramas risk becoming.
How Lanthimos was able to take a part of history that, is in fact, unknown to so many and manipulate it into something enjoyable and engaging for a modern audience should not be ignored. This is mainly due to the dry humour and amusing one-liners present in the writing of Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. There is no denying the film is a black comedy which makes its spectators chuckle and blush, the abundant use of the C-word causing inevitable roars of laughter from the audience, but perhaps think twice about taking your grandmother to see this one. Nevertheless, the film is witty and immature all at the same time which is what makes it so fun to watch.
The Favourite is a film which could have gone very wrong due to its arguably basic storyline, peculiar characters and the sensitive subject of sexuality. Fortunately, all which are futile to think about as the terrific scriptwriting, the outstanding cast and the talents of an exceptional director prevented this. Lanthimos’ unapologetically bizarre and hard-hitting story definitely deserves the attention it is receiving.
The Favourite, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is distributed in the UK by 20th Century Fox, certificate 15.