Beesh’s review published on Letterboxd:
Mean Girls of the 18th Century
With a signature black humor, Yorgos Lanthimos often disguises every single one of his comedies as some sort of dark, ominous, fucked-up omen with sinister consequences. His work is mean spirited and aims at crowds who don't just kick people when they're down, but laugh in their face after the fact.
Albeit the man's got some admirable craft to boot, and The Favourite just might be his most dressed up dark comedy to date, with a crude elegance that will probably nab it some award nominations.
That said, the only thing “mainstream” about The Favourite is that upon first glance it looks like a straightforward period piece, but like any good Lanthimos flick it’s a deliciously dark piece of humor disguised, this time in literal powdered wigs and puffy dresses, which inevitably only makes the funny funnier.
The Favourite can be compared to the likes of Death of Stalin in the sense that it’s highlighting a specific era of time during a past royal empire, featuring historic figures to very loosely recreate “historical events” as a means to tell an original comedy.
It’s a brilliant approach to screenwriting because it’s using history as a basis for humor and so long as the facts don’t stray too far, comedy auteurs like Lanthimos can get away with imprinting their signature style on history (though to be fair screenwriting credit goes fully to *checks notes* Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara).
The screenplay is sharp as a blade, with cunning dialogue between cunts (the film gleefully exploits the c-word with proud elegance), but more so in its incredibly witty and fast paced jokes which slice abruptly but just subtly enough that make for a legitimately hilarious script. The humor moves quick enough that it’s written and designed as a film to be watched over and over again.
The fact that Davis and McNamara inject the amount of clever dialogue and mean spirited jokes into something of historical accuracy is flat-out brilliant.
Even then, to call something as perfectly outrageous as The Favourite “historically accurate” is funny in itself.
The facts of the matter are that in the dawn of the 18th century, Queen Anne of England while at war with France favors Lady Sarah to govern things until Lady Abigail comes along to attempt to steal the spot in becoming the Queen’s new favourite. Those are real facts and Lanthimos does right by them.
It’s what goes on BEHIND the facts that makes the movie tick, and not just everything beyond facts but everything behind closed doors between the three leading ladies (and some of those going-ons are HELLA gross).
To add as many gay tendencies between the lead women as the filmmakers do, and NOT alter the course of history is a feat in itself. But to make the promiscuity during this era something this funny, that’s just impressive. The film is so distastefully engaging; so cynically entertaining, and all the madness of The Favourite’s shenanigans belong to the cast.
Between Rachel Weisz’ piercing nerve as Lady Sarah and Emma Stone’s caddy elegance as Lady Abigail, the two share a deadly chemistry that feels like a fucked up relationship between two high school chicks. The snarky, passive-aggressive attitudes between the two women as they please the queen with their noses high and their intentions low, is the stuff of 1700s Regina George and Cady Heron. In fact, much of the movie plays out as a more queer and classy (though much more cynical) 18th century Mean Girls.
Even the supporting cast is excellent. For one, Nicholas Hoult steals every goddamn scene he’s in by delivering a deadpan humor with evil quips of dialogue, while sporting a powdered wig and makeup (which is never not funny). Everyone involved keeps it together, even if the girls are the glue.
Perhaps notably so, weaving the two lead viper-women against each other, is Queen Anne played by the brutally hilarious Olivia Colman. The way in which Colman acts so childishly; the pathetic slugging around juxtaposed with her abrupt shouting at anyone who’s in her presence while she’s upset; her terrible moods and outrageous demands; She brilliantly sells the Queen were she a historical version of Donald Trump.
As a matter of fact, the political undertones go so far beyond this being a literally historical piece, even if the terrible truths are far fetched.
The stern form in which Weiz plays Sarah as a complete brute; an impenetrable force to govern the kingdom by means of performing a variety of tasks for the Queen, be them silly or sexual; against the cat-like way Stone’s Abigail develops a sinister advantage over Sarah; the desperate need to please the Queen if only to spite her rival; all this betrayal weaved together by a helpless troll of a woman who can’t make any decisions for herself; a QUEEN in times of turmoil for her country no doubt; well folks, there’s LOTS to be dissected when it comes to the politics of pleasing someone of power in order to gain some form of respect.
What ultimately makes the film shine is that these are admirable women but they’re despicable characters. In this age of rising female empowerment it’s refreshing to see women who rather than be powerful, classy, or anything “ladylike” aren’t afraid to shout, cuss, slander, betray and get their hands dirty. These are belligerent, disgusting ladies and they’re all the better for it.
The Favourite is excellent because on the outside it looks elegant. It’s beautifully shot and filled with incredible set and art design. It has the appearance of a visual masterpiece and the soundtrack of classical significance. The acting is astounding and the writing and directing is classy as fuck, in the sense that this is an ugly picture dressed up as a respectable one.
With that; with all the political undertones, overtones between two tones; through the creative force of its historically brilliant screenwriters and the cynical behavior of its director, The Favourite is perhaps the funniest, if not the flat-out meanest movie of 2018.
*10 points to the script
*15 points to Yorgos
*20 points to the ladies