Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) has done it again, adding yet another absurdist gem to a collection that shows no sign of slowing down in quality and fanfare. In The Favourite, he reimagines the reign of Queen Anne and the periodically playful, somewhat sexy competition between her two ladies-in-waiting, Lady Sarah Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and her cousin Abigail (Emma Stone).
Avoiding the common pitfalls of the set-up, Lanthimos manages to earn sympathy for each of the characters, no matter how low they’re willing to go – if only because they’re doing it to survive.
It’s easy to cheer on every player when the game is as cutthroat as the 18th century could be, especially for women. A trifecta of talented women dominate the screen; Olivia Colman – no stranger to leading a kingdom – is legendary as Queen Anne, at once a drooping, fading monarch with remnants of the hopeful young woman she once was, and a spoiled child flying into fits of hysteria. We are given ample time to enjoy and pity her in her madness and she takes every opportunity to impress with her range. Weisz plays her current ice queen manipulator who melts seductively into the nooks and crannies of politics but also claws her way through anyone who stands in her way. Stone arrives and offers deadpan delivery on a silver tray, ingratiating herself to us more than anybody else in the film even though she’s an obviously sticky cog in an already precariously running machine. Forgiveness and favour comes easily with her wide-eyed and saucy disobedience. All three are at the top of their game creating an absolute guilty pleasure of a storm that’s impossible to turn away from.
Lanthimos loosens the corset strings in the most surprising ways, creating room to breathe in a period piece that could have been stuffy and heavy-lidded. Every frame is a treat for the eyes and its razor-sharp comedy and precise editing delivers a near-perfect film that is not soon to be forgotten.
Taste of Cinema Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Author Bio: Becky is a freelance writer living in Vancouver, Canada. She has contributed to film writing for Bright Wall/Dark Room, Bloody Disgusting, and Audiences Everywhere. When she’s not cooking, she’s devouring horror movies or napping competitively.