Lee, or El Duderino, if, you're not into the whole brevity thing’s review published on Letterboxd:
"I am on my side. Always. And sometimes that may be a happy coincidence for you."
I was absolutely in a state of ecstacy when I found out that there was a screening of The Favourite in range of me. Furthermore, it was a Christmas miracle to know I didn't have to drive 5 hours round-trip to experience it (like I had to for Dunkirk, The Hateful Eight, and Green Room). I'm curious if it's because more audiences are actually beginning to take notice of the brilliantly unique Greek filmmaker, Yorgos Lanthimos, or is it because The Favourite is his most mainstream accessible film yet. This is not a near-dystopian future where bachelors and bachelorettes must decide what animal they'd like to become if they do not settle down. It is not a bleak Kubrickian family tale of a psychopathic child next door. The Favourite may present itself in the 18th century historical lense, but it's iteration and depiction of Queen Anne (and her two manipulative confidantes) is not what you'll read in class, rather painting a thorough mudslinging hysterical roller-coaster of pure fun.
The Favourite is the definition of exquisite raunchy lavishness. From my yearly viewings, this film has production design and costume on lock down, with very good odds at original screenplay, best picture, and cinematography. I know the phrase "every frame a painting" (TM to one of the greatest channels) is thrown around quite often, but this film is a worthy entry to that title. From the alluring and royal title cards, to the fanciful opening shot, the entire runtime is filled with majestic shots throughout. Yorgos' and cinematographer Robbie Ryan's (Fish Tank, Slow West) use of lighting is beyond exquisite. The film just seeps in its royal gown and cake filled mouth. You are absolutely engulfed by yet another isolated and highly comedic world that Yorgos creates. It has to be more than just the impeccable performances and top marks black humour that Yorgos provides everytime, but I just love being in his diegetic world. Such a strange sentiment seeing his his films are technically not happy places to be in, but I entirely and willingly indulge in them. As I discussed with a trusted Twitter mutual, @DJ_Keyser, The Favourite is easily Yorgos' most accessible and entertaining entry to his bonkers filmography. It's straight political-comedy that dabbles into the drama border. I add in the political genre in the account of the plots slight pickings into Queen Anne's historical dealings with the Spanish War for Succession, and dealings with the contesting Whigs and Tories, and even a Jonathan Swift name-drop. But fret not, they interplay as background subplot to the primary love triangle story being weaved.
The performances are nothing short of magnetic, between Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone. The mercurial triangle they create and live in is stunning, and rarely do I state that the entire leading cast deserves awards recognition. I honestly do not know how they will divide each wonderful actress into lead or support. This is arguably Olivia Coleman's best role, yet. But for my money's worth, while all three were spectacular and unique, I felt that Stone was the standout, and it could be because she got most of the screentime. All three were magnificent, and each raised the other to new levels with their chemistry. I think all are deserving, but that each respective audience member's favourite (pun intended) will play off of what type of person you are. I'm shocked there are not enough of those "x/y & me" memes of the three of them, seeing how you can easily fit each persona into the "there are two [three] types of people in this world" sentiment. Sarah (Weisz) plays the alpha-dominant and brutally honest devil, Abigail (Stone) plays the doe-eyed angelic appearing deceitful viper, and Anne (Coleman) plays the dubious and hopeless loner, that has the other two upon her shoulders. Which one are you?
The chemistry between everyone was extraordinary, but the love triangle take the cake. Their love/hate dynamic and jealous strikes at each other were executed sooo well! Having Sarah and Abigail practice shooting as a platform for their progressively shifting scales in favour allowed for some of the best witty banter. Lines like, "My, you've done some considerable damage to the sky." as Abigail misses all her targets, and curiosity in her court position, "Ask away just be reminded I am holding a gun." only touch upon the tip of their fluctuating back & forth. There are no good or bad, just three extremely loud egos going at one another in selfishness. Thar selfish desire for power, for rank, for love, wealth, political sway, attention, and plenty of sexual urge. And I must say the raw sexuality and innuendo are heavily present, whether it be the lesbian subplot, the Prime Minister stroking his phallic duck neck, a casual whorehouse, and even some brief yet classy nudity. The film is very raunchy, and it provides some of the more memorable quotes of the year. Even a little random bit like, "The only thing I know for certain is that your carriage awaits. And that my maid is on her way up with something called a, 'pineapple'." just has me breaking out in laughter. The delivery is quick, it's witty, it's deadpan, it's leaked through pearly teeth concealing a silver tongue. Great stuff!
Of notable recognition, Nicholas Hoult and Mark Gatiss are also playing brief supporting roles. Nothing of major note, but nothing short of well handled. A big round of applause for all the extras who had to be constantly berated by absolutely everyone, and abruptly yelled at by Queen Anne. The majority of the film takes place in the palace or gardens, so you always have some poor kid and servant somewhere in the background just waiting to be ordered around. I'd like to think that Coleman spontaneously improvised certain lines like the trailer famous, "Did you just look at me?!... LOOK AT ME!... How dare you!" *Slaps servant*. The entire film is sprinkled with hilarious lines of dialogue and quippy one-liners. Hats off to the writer and each performance to just fully deliver each intonation of every word, as well as a kudos for Stone's British accent. In expected Yorgos Lanthimos fashion, this is yet another classic black comedy, and as such it has to be noted that some people may not get it, or simply do not like it. Lanthimos is an acquired taste, and black comedy is interpreted differently by most. Films like In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths, Calvary, along with Yorgos' eclectic style are all indicative of how they pan out. There was a simple lined delivered with such ease by Stone, "Are you hear to seduce or rape me?" responded to with, "Please, I am a gentleman." and capped by "So rape, then." that just cracked me and a few other up. Providing brief context to my audience, it was about 12 people not including myself. Of those 12, 7 were above the age of 50. The remainder were mid 20s. So yeah, obviously Lanthimos has not entirely breached the mainstream, but after that line was so casually stated, a older couple just walked out. Say what you will, and maybe it was unrelated, but myself and some others were flat out laughing at the line among many others. Also some people apparently get really uncomfortable with the word, "cunt".
The performances were illuminated by the detailed lavish set design and the intriguing cinematography. Robbie Ryan blended a mixture of traditional close ups, wide shots, pans, and some limited use of fish eye lense and masterfully telling low/high angle shots. Coupled with the obvious Victorian 18th century plot and wardrobe, some of the shots created a stark division between the prior expected traditional power and the latter abrupt and different inclusions. It really tied the room together like Queen Anne's rabbits, and served to further emphasise the warring between Rachel and Emma's cousin characters, for the role of being in the Queen's favour. Might just be me, but I thought it brought the business as usual in the royal court, a bit of added panache, especially the dance sequences. A brilliant score to match the tone, with notable yet obvious inclusion of Bach, Vivaldi, and Schubert. I would have been interested to what the likes of Jonny Greenwood could have added into such an ambience.
I cannot think of any gripes I had for the film. I don't think it's an all-time classic, nor do I think it's a perfect masterpiece. And yet, my mind does not conjure any grievous complaint. I will say that there was a brief turn towards the melancholic drama at the beginning of the third act, that did begin to drag just a bit. It's nothing that arrives uncalled for, but it certainly alters the tone albeit temporary. If I had to knit pick, I could also say that there were some subplots that could have been explored more, even if just for a few more laughs. But like all Yorgos Lanthimos films, it deserves multiple viewings, but unlike his past two works, there is nothing vague or up for immense debate-filled interpretation in the film. Please do go see this on the best screen possible, though.
~ ★★★★½ / 5 ~
BSA & NO END CREDIT SCENE
Awards Worthy: Lead Actress (x3?), Supporting Actress (x3?), Production Design, Wardrobe/Costume/Makeup, Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Best Picture.
Quickee Film Time