Roman Arbisi’s review published on Letterboxd:
From the estranged mind behind “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” comes Yorgos Lanthimos’ English Period Piece starring Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, and Emma Stone, “The Favourite”.
Yorgos Lanthimos has been one of Hollywood’s most divisive film-makers for quite some time. His ability to transport audience into uncomfortable situations is a trademark outlined with dark comedy. Lanthimos’ films usually have a bizarre premise with strange characters and a grim atmosphere. The combination of these three elements along with Lanthimos’ unique eye for camera angles to amplify all of his bizarre flourishes makes for an interesting experience with each of his films.
The most exciting aspect heading into “The Favourite” was it’s trifecta of talent with Colman, Weisz, and Stone. All whom completely own their role and strut with confidence, anger, and seduction set to the backdrop of a stellar production design. The most notable highlight of “The Favourite” other than it’s surreal technical craft is how each actress completely owns an act of the film. Weisz really dominates the first act, Colman the second, and Stone the third as each radiate so much power every time they’re on screen. The whole film is really about politically or sexually charged power plays and it works so well not only due to the clever writing, but just how believable these actresses are in their roles.
The most surprising element of “The Favourite” was how Yorgos Lanthimos channeled his inner Stanley Kubrick with some of the best lighting techniques in years. Lanthimos went out of his way to get a replica of the camera that Kubrick and cinematographer John Alcott used for “Barry Lyndon”, and it truly makes a difference. Lanthimos’ use of that camera replicates the visual splendor and range of an epic “Barry Lyndon” to a more confined space. Of which should work as a spectacular companion piece to the 1975 English epic in the near future. The use of light and shadow here is too good to explain with words. It’s a thrilling visual beauty that spawns endless shadows and ignites lengthy hallways. The combination of that with Lanthimos’ continuous use of high angle and low angle shots conveying power and royalty is one of the most raw beauties to be visualized in 2018.
There really isn’t much else to explore here without outright spoiling the depth, twists, and turns in every aspect of this film. The character arcs are tragic and fully explored to the point of thematic overwhelment, and the trifecta of Weisz, Colman, and Stone should bring in an Oscar nomination for each of them. Lanthimos’ direction is the most accessible and hilarious of his works yet. The film never pauses to get the laughs, they’re seamlessly interwoven through the quilt of the world, characters, and narrative. The sexual undertones amplify tension and laughs, and every joke is delivered as if it was never written on a page, but as if the cast was so in tune with the tone of the film and their characters that it comes off naturally. Lanthimos is known for allowing his actors to perform with a minimal guiding voice from himself, rather implanting confidence in his performers by letting them take hold of his craft. It’s risky, unconventional, but wholly unique in his vision for the medium and what strange explorations he has to offer. It may sound like recency bias, but Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” is the pinnacle of his style and voice, and is easily one of the strongest films of the year.
“The Favourite” is my personal frontrunner for the best picture of 2018.
“The Favourite” gets a 99/100
(Holding off on a potential 100/100 until a rewatch)