Another Yorgos Lathimos film, and another healthy dose of bizarre dialogue, quirky musical score, and stunning cinematography. Anyone familiar with 2017’s excellent The Killing of a Sacred Deer will no doubt know what to expect, but Lathimos still delivers more than enough to make it worth seeing this darkly comical period gem.
Set in early 18th century England, the highly political plot (on both a large and interpersonal scale) revolves around Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), her closest adviser Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), and the new servant, Abigail (Emma Stone). Abigail claims to be a cousin of Sarah, securing her employment, but soon seeks to recapture the life of greatness she once had – whatever the cost.
From here, an ensemble of pitch-perfect performances and gorgeous sets lead you on a journey that’s sometimes witty, sometimes violent, but always funny. Even in the typical moment-to-moment dialogue, screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara manage to inject so much subtle humour and askew quips that make sure you’re always slightly off-balance, when compared to a more “standard” period piece.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Lathimos himself wrote the film, because the dialogue always sounds reminiscent of his previous work in the best possible ways. Characters say and do things that would seem downright strange in any other universe, but within the world of The Favourite, everything slips perfectly into place. There’s even a handful of genuinely sincere and poignant interactions – particularly between Queen Anne and her new best friend, Abigail – which add depth to an already layered and engaging narrative.
The narrative itself primarily concerns the love triangle between Anne, Sarah and Abigail, but this takes place on a French war backdrop that introduces several familiar faces, such as Mark Gatiss and Nicholas “Shiny and Chrome” Hoult. The supporting cast never overstay their welcome and the story always focuses on the clashing leads whispering in Queen Anne’s ear, but everybody puts in a superb effort in selling what could otherwise be some laughably silly dialogue.
It’s tough recommending a film like The Favourite to just anybody, because it could run the risk of being a bit too absurd. Some may see that it’s a period drama and go along just on that fact, but I imagine that’ll result in disappointment and leave some scratching their heads – just look to user reviews on sites like IMDb for confirmation. Headings like “Absolutely awful” and “Profoundly boring” might appear like some audiences didn’t ‘get’ it, but I honestly can’t blame a certain moviegoer for walking out of this film confused by the hype.
If you get on-board, though, then you’re in for a real treat. Although every quip or jab doesn’t evoke hysterics, it’s consistently very funny and the back-and-forth between Abigail and her elite cousin Sarah provide a great foundation for a brilliant interpersonal story of betrayal, devotion and manipulation.
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The Favourite is already a favourite (heh) of the year, and proves that every Lathimos film is worth seeing. Just buckle up for some healthy absurdity.
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