Luke Thorne’s review published on Letterboxd:
Yorgos Lanthimos directs this period comedy-drama in which Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) relationship with Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) is turned upside down by the arrival of Anne’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone).
Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous film was the horror film The Killing of a Sacred Deer, with Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman, which is my personal favourite from 2017 and also featured a star-making supporting performance from Barry Keoghan.
Now, for his latest effort, Lanthimos chooses to go back to the early 18th century – and the result is a very, very impressive one indeed.
Set at the beginning of the 18th century, England is at battle with France. Despite this, duck racing and pineapple eating are flourishing.
A weak Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) inhabits the throne, and her close pal Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) administrates the country in her stead while giving treatment to Anne's poor health and unpredictable attitude.
When a new servant named Abigail (Emma Stone) enters, her charm recommends her to Sarah. Sarah takes care of Abigail, and Abigail sees an opportunity to go back to her noble backgrounds.
Olivia Colman gives a terrific performance in her role as Anne, the Queen of Great Britain who acts like she is in charge and everyone has to listen to her. Colman suits her role really well, definitely makes the most of the time she has on the screen and even steals some scenes in the process, while also providing some humour at the same time.
Elsewhere, there are solid supporting performances to be had from Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in their respective roles as Sarah Churchill and Abigail Hill. Sarah is in a secret relationship with Anne, while Abigail is Anne’s cousin and both Sarah and Abigail both show plenty of determination in hoping to make sure they are the one who gets the Queen’s affections. They both suit their parts very well and make the most of their screen time.
Also giving very respectable performances are Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn in their respective parts as Robert Harley and Samuel Masham. Robert is the 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer while also being a politician and landowner in charge of taxes, while Samuel is the 1st Baron Masham who falls in love with Abigail.
Keep an eye out for Mark Gatiss and James Smith, who both give good performances as John Churchill and Sidney Godolphin. John is the 1st Duke of Marlborough who is also Sarah’s husband, while Sidney is the 1st Earl of Godolphin who is also an adviser and secretary of state for the Northern department.
The direction from Lanthimos is excellent because he allows the facial expressions to be seen to a strong effect throughout, while also keeping a tense atmosphere happening as well.
The script is written to a fantastic standard by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara as they make the movie really easy to follow, with some humour thrown into the mix as well, meaning the movie never takes itself too seriously.
The technical aspects are really, really impressive – the set, camera, costume, sound, editing and makeup/hairstyling all stand out best, because the set is absolutely terrific to look at throughout the house; the camera makes very good use of the locations and also captures the tense and dramatic moments well, which deservedly get the edge-of-the-seat status; the costumes are brilliantly, brilliantly designed by Sandy Powell; the sound is excellent as you have to listen carefully; the film is edited to a fantastic effect; the makeup and hairstyling are outstanding.
At the time of writing, the movie saw Olivia Colman win the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Musical or Comedy, while also getting nominated for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone) and Best Screenplay (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara).
Even though those nominations were all deserved, the Best Picture and Best Actress nods should have been in the drama categories, as although there are some funny moments, I don’t consider it funny enough to be in those respective categories.
However, it shouldn’t be taken away that, for me, The Favourite is the movie to beat this awards season, especially in the technical categories.
Overall, The Favourite is an absolutely brilliant period comedy-drama from Yorgos Lanthimos, thanks to the terrific and central performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, along with the solid direction, very well written script, tense atmosphere and absolutely outstanding technical aspects. The best British film to have been made in the year of this release and educational status is guaranteed.