Acclaimed director Yorgos Lanthimos blends a mix of delirious humor with his usual approach of bleakness and despair in this unique period piece that is filed with skillful direction, astonishing visuals, along with effective and strong performances.
In Lanthimos fifth feature, he takes a departure from the modern world and dystopia, it’s a costume drama that takes place in England 18th century. Film opens with a peasant named Abigail (Emma Stone) who heads to the Queen’s palace where her cousin, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), in which she is a close advisor and confident to Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman).
Abigail starts off as a maid in which she is bullied by co-workers, meanwhile Anne ends up making a lot of decisions involving the national security of England and taking charge on decisions involving the war with France while Queen Anne endures severe pain and illness.
After Abigail discovers that Queen Anne and Lady Sarah are indeed closeted lovers, Abigail begins to become more charming to Queen Anne and even ends up becoming her lover, and the film becomes an unexpected love triangle filled with dark humor, cruelty, and of course complexities.
Lanthimos’s previous films, like Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, were all relentlessly bleak and mischievous by design. The Favourite continues the same approach and execution, and like the other films each of the characters are unpleasant people, however The Favourite doesn’t quite reach the level of engagement or involvement as the other films, and the end result is a more cold and distant film that also holds a lot of smugness. Lanthimos The Lobster offered engaging characterizations and themes that allowed the viewer to stay emotionally connected with Lanthomos themes of love and loneliness in the modern world.
What anchors the film outside the astonishing craft and pleasing visuals are the performances Coleman, Stone and Weisz who are all greatly cast in their roles. A lot of these performances end up becoming overwrought as they get overshadowed by thr costumes, art direction, and dramatic dialogue. Weisz is deeply compelling, sensual, and equally stoic, while Emma Stone is witty, sharp, and observant. Olivia Coleman delivers a lot of anguish, despair, and strength to her role as well.
Aesthetically the film is very impressive, visually the film will draw instant comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon” on terms of framing and composition along with his use of wider lenses and with his snark and meticulous detail and execution that is also comparable to Kubrick that can also be found on last years masterpiece The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Though the use of the super wide fish eye angle brings a little too much attention itself and it’s often overused, but it does bring a quality to the off-kilter world Lanthimos is creating.
Overall, The Favourite doesn’t quite reach the level of greatness as Lanthimos previous films in which this is his first feature film that he wasn’t involved with the writing process, the film does get draggy towards the end, and overall the doesn’t quite reach the impact that it aims for as a whole because the third act ends a little abruptly. Thankfully though there is a lot to admire in the film including the very final shot that is experimental and haunting.