The Favourite is my first Yorgos Lanthimos movie, and to my knowledge it’s his more accessible movie to date. I absolutely understand this and I’m glad I knew this going into it. Because The Favourite is very, very good, but it’s gonna be a tough sell for many. I can thankfully say I am now prepared to take the plunge into his other work.
Lanthimos has honestly created a period comedy drama film that holds you with its three pivotal female leads and their constantly shifting dynamics laced with brilliant comedic beats. The Favourite does well on the idea of people playing off different sides in a political and royal game of wits and betrayal.
Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone all bring their A-game to this film, showcasing brilliant acting, comedic timing, and the blackest twist on what would normally be a dry, up-itself story. Peppered alongside them is a wonderful supporting cast, including a scene-stealing Nicholas Hoult and all manner of extras that work as fuel for schadenfreude at the hands of the leads. The Favourite does well to throw in perfectly timed jokes and silly physical humour to counter-balance the sinister goings-on between people.
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan truly impresses here, and they better be deemed the honour of a nomination, because The Favourite is full of wonderful fish-eye lenses and calculated tracking shots and camera movements. Every step is wonderfully orchestrated to impact the message of each shot, evoking the technicality of Kubrick and the audacity of Gilliam.
Every technical piece of this film is brilliant. It is wonderfully constructed in the small setting the film allows for, giving us great character construction and confining within the walls of a great manor. For every sweeping journey down a hall and wideshot of a room full of retreating politicians, we get the claustrophobia of characters trying to get beyond their station, or the world they are forced into against their will and against their belief of entitlement.
The Favourite is a hard-sell. It’s a period drama that has some of the best laughs in a film in recent memory. It has the most lavish costume design (and deserves a nomination for that, too) and yet it also has your fair share of the words cunt and fuck. It has your favourite, most talented actresses, then proceeds to have them fall into shitty mud or dragged through the woods by a horse or get a bad case of gout.
It’s not as beautiful or elegant as you’d assume from the setting, and that’s exactly the point. The Favourite is just as messy as it is neatly shot and cut. The characters are just as smart and wise as they are ready to get drunk, throw up, and race lobsters or ducks.
It’s a fucking weird but fucking great movie, only suffering by the feeling that it drags just a little too much two thirds of the way into the movie. The back and forth is enjoyable, but up to a point you feel like it’s kinda run it’s course, only to throw in more slices of brilliance that makes you glad you’re still in this world.
It is a film that deserves nomination, but maybe not winning. Much like the characters therein. This director is smart. Now give me the movie where people get turned into animals if they don’t find love.