Michael Cox’s review published on Letterboxd:
"...favour is a breeze that shifts direction all the time." - Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford
You see, I hate the way Yorgos directs his actors. They're all so robotic and awkward in delivering their lines, but he's always very purposeful in the stories he wants to tell and this was no exception.
This was an absolutely phenomenal satire of every period piece ever. Sure, it had the wigs, the fancy costumes, the uppity British accents and snobby attitudes, the ball dancing and romance is in the air. When you think about period pieces, you often think of the attributes mentioned, but here everything's all wrong. Our three main characters are locked in a lesbian love triangle, everyone's loud and violent with one another, men act like dumb children, its explicit in its dialogue and every characters' desires are raunchy, and the games the royals play are absurd. For example, there are duck races and pineapple eating contests. But it works because Yorgos' direction heavily involves absurdism which "strays away from the norm" or contradicts the material it's trying to tackle, which The Favourite does both.
It contradicts almost everything thing that makes a film a period piece and satirizes it to a great extent. It's mostly a comedy and a really funny one at that. The dialogue was just so weird and awkward and it's then juxtaposed by the wigs, costumes, and stakes and you can't help, but burst into laughter.
Then you get the cinematography which was absolutely beautiful. Usually with these kinds of films, you get static shots to focus on the grandeur of this whole time period, but they can often can feel distant, lifeless and dare I say, boring. That's why period pieces so often get a bad rep because of those qualities while here, the camera was always moving, used unique angles, fish-eye lenses and natural lighting to bring so much more character and liveliness to the film that's often missing from a lot of period pieces. It doesn't focus on the grandiose palaces the characters live in and the wardrobes they have on, it instead focuses on the people themselves and lets the sets and costumes do the rest of the work, which paid off in grand fashion.
One other thing that Yorgos does really well from what I understand and that's this feeling of (sometimes existential) dread washing over you. Throughout the whole experience of watching one of his films, he slips it in ever so subtly whether it (often) be through the score (which was incredible by the way), disgusting editing (in a good way) or dramatic irony.
The cast was just so great! Nicholas Hoult (Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford) was made for period pieces. He's so funny here. Rachel Weisz (Sarah Churchill, Lady Malborough) and Emma Stone (Abigail Hill) were both really excellent here and I think this was probably the best performances I've seen from them. However, this was Olivia Colman's (Queen Anne) show. She stole every scene and her knack to balance multiple styles of comedic delivery and drama seamlessly puts her on top of everyone else in the cast.
However, the film wasn't engaging the whole time and can understand why someone would find this weird. I want to go back to the point about how Yorgos directs his actors and their delivery of their lines, but their is point to it. Here, it's to satirize the period piece and the disconnect that comes with royalty and the lower classes of people.
Overall, a wonderful film and I'm pretty upset that I didn't check it out sooner.