Plot: What’s it about?
The Favourite is the latest film from acclaimed Greek film auteur Yorgos Lanthimos. Yorgos has in the past directed the films Dogtooth, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Lobster. Yorgos has a very unique cinematic vision and in The Favourite he applies his talents to a period drama. The resulting film is extraordinary. The film garnered ten Academy Award nominations ranging from best film and director to best screenplay. All three of the female leads were nominated for Oscars for their performances. The sole award given to the film was Best Actress to Olivia Colman, but it was a strong showing. Having enjoyed The Lobster, but having missed this film in the theaters, I was excited to watch The Favourite.
The plot of the film revolves around three women: Queen Anne (Olivia Colman,) Abigail (Emma Stone,) and Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz.) The film takes place in early 18th century England. Queen Anne listens exclusively to the advice of her trusted aide Lady Sarah. Lady Sarah wields her power over the Queen’s decisions to influence Parliament and the country. Sarah is a hawk and wants to wage war on France. In order to do this, the country must be heavily taxed to the chagrin of Parliamentarian Harley (Nicholas Hoult.) Sarah is married to a British general named Lord Marlboro that is fighting on the front lines, but their marriage is largely about titles. Abigail arrives via carriage to the palace and immediately sets about her ascent in status. Abigail’s family had once been prominent, but her status as a lady was destroyed due to her father’s negligence. Her father had lost her to a man in a card game and later had drunkenly burnt down their house. Abigail appeals to her cousin Sarah and Sarah begins to shape her into her image. Abigail soon realizes that the Queen and Sarah have a relationship that goes beyond plutonic. Seeing her opportunity to become a lady again, Abigail befriends the Queen and begins to woo her. This leads to a power struggle between Abigail and Sarah as they battle for the Queen’s affections. They use every manipulation that they can to ruin each other.
I had no idea what to expect out of The Favourite, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The film is helped by an excellent screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. The dialogue in the film is incredibly sharp-witted and also much more vulgar than you might expect from the film’s setting. Very few movies make me laugh harder than a chuckle but The Favourite made me laugh out loud numerous times. Nearly every scene that featured Nicholas Hoult’s character Harley gave me a great laugh. The film is best viewed as a dark comedy. It is based on historical figures but is not an attempt at realism or historical accuracy. This is not like any period drama ever made, the most radical departure to the form since Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette.
It is worth pointing out that this film is a hard R-rated film. Yorgos Lanthimos is not afraid of sexuality on film for comedic purposes and people expecting a comedy of manners may find themselves shocked. This is the only reason that I can conceive of somebody disliking the film, but the intended comedic effect Lanthimos sought to achieve adds to the surreal nature of the film.
The acting in the film is exceptional. I have enjoyed Emma Stone in other films, but she is really great here; displaying excellent comic timing and wearing an incredibly convincing English accent. Rachel Weisz first blew me away in Neil Labute’s movie The Shape of Things, and she is dynamite in The Favourite. Weisz is exceptional in roles where she can display a cold heart and this film gives her a great opportunity to dominate the screen. Olivia Colman won the best actress Oscar for her performance and she does a great job as the childish Queen. This film is dominated by the three incredible performances by the female leads. This film proves once and for all how formidable a comedy led by females can be. This is the best female led comedy since Bridesmaids.
Yorgos Lanthimos has a great eye and the film was beautifully shot by cinematographer Robbie Ryan. To achieve the desired visual effect of the film they utilized wide lenses and fisheye lenses for almost the entire picture. The cinematography was nominated for an Oscar but lost to Alfonso Cuaron for Roma. Despite losing the award, the cinematography is something to celebrate.
Overall, The Favourite is easily one of the best films of 2018. I highly recommend checking it out if you like your cinema strange and your comedy dark. It does not get much better than this.
Video: How’s it look?
20th Century Fox have provided a gorgeous looking transfer of the film in 1.85:1 aspect ratio with an MPEG-4 AVC encoded image. The cinematography by Robbie Ryan is visually extraordinary with wide angle and fisheye lenses used to great effect. This is one of the best looking period films since Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon. Fox are some of the best in the business at presenting their films as closely as possible to the theatrical presentation and this Blu-ray is essentially perfect. On every level from fine detail to clarity to color levels, this is essentially flawless.
Audio: How’s it sound?
A DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is included. The film utilizes an interesting score by Komeil S. Hosseini. Hosseini claimed that the film did not have an actual score and to a certain extent he is correct. Instead Hoseinni uses a variety of instruments making noises that are not exactly musical. When it works it works, but I did find a couple instances where the repetitive nature irked me. The film uses an excellent array of classical music that sounds fantastic to supplement the score with songs ranging from Handel to Vivaldi. The film uses surrounds in clever ways to enforce the setting such as when the shooting range can be heard from inside the palace during some scenes. Overall, the track is great.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes – Not even three minutes’ worth of deleted scenes are incldued and even if they were, they wouldn’t have had that much of an impact on the final product.
- The Favourite: Unstitching the Costume Drama – This is a really enjoyable EPK style behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with Yorgos Lanthimos, writer Tony McNamara, the stars of the film, and more.
- Theatrical Trailer
The Bottom Line
The Favourite is great. This is one of those movies that makes me laugh days later just thinking about certain scenes. The film is a little bit risqué and has some brazen sexuality that will turn off some audiences. It is great to watch Yorgos Lanthimos continue to broaden his horizons and bring his weird sensibilities to new material. The three performances at the center of the film are excellent and deserve all the praise that they earned. This film comes highly recommended and was easily one of the best pictures of 2018.