The Favourite – Movie Review
Set during Queen Anne’s reign in England in the early 18th century, this uproarious, fresh, very funny dark comedy drama is certainly the most original film nominated for best picture this year. The profane, ribald script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara weaves a love triangle between Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) her most trusted adviser, Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and a fallen lady, who now is nothing more than a scullery maid, Abigail (Emma Stone). It’s not a traditional love triangle, then nothing in this film is traditional. Everything is on the table, including rubbing the Queen’s legs, poisoning and various forms of chicanery as Abigail and Sarah vie for the Queen’s favor.
Queen Anne is a hot mess and Colman’s portrayal of her is astonishingly good. She should win every award invented for acting (she just won the Oscar.) Plagued by ill health and 17 pregnancies that begot her not a single heir, she’s not too mentally stable either. Paranoid, impervious, neurotic, needy, spoiled, and very insecure about her looks, Anne will take any attention she can get and she will wield her power to get it. Colman is a genius, she makes Anne revolting, pitiful, sad, endearing and desperate, sometimes all in the same scene. This performance will be talked about for years to come.
Both Stone and Weisz are excellent too. Although they were nominated in the supporting category, in reality it is more of an ensemble film with all three actresses on screen equal amounts of time. Weisz turns in her best performance in a decade as the conniving, cunning lady that unravels as she begins to lose control. She knows she is the smartest person in the room and becomes increasingly frustrated when she cannot get what she wants. How can this happen, when she is smarter than everyone, including the men. I loved the way she walked in this film, there is a tenseness to her that just screams get out of my way, idiot.
What a smart choice to cast Emma Stone as Abigail. She’s a cross between an abused, put upon waif and an earthy tart who is much tougher than she looks. Abigail is wily and brave, and Stone plays her as if she has no self-awareness of her opportunistic tendencies, it is as if she is thinking “I’ll just try this and see what happens.” You never fully understand how calculating she is, and she is very funny as well. Stone should do more comedy.
As directed by Yorgos Lanthimus the film looks and sounds like no other. Often shot with a fish eye lens, and with spectacular lighting, production design and costumes there is a kaleidoscope look to the film. The music, which spans every genre from baroque to electric pop keeps the audience guessing and on edge. The Brechtian addition of title cards underscores the cross genre pastiche and occasionally unmoors the viewer. This genre ambiguity serves as a metaphor for the viewer, who never knows quite what to feel.
The script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara is delicious full of ribald humor and outrageous scenes. This is not your average dull costume drama, it’s a fresh, frothy, uproarious trip-and one of my favorite movies released in 2018.