The Favourite (2018)

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Critic Consensus: The Favourite sees Yorgos Lanthimos balancing a period setting against rich, timely subtext - and getting roundly stellar performances from his well-chosen stars.

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Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne's ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen's companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.

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Critic Reviews for The Favourite

All Critics (211) | Top Critics (39)

There are no heroes in The Favourite; there are only sad creatures driven by their various needs. There is, however, a morbid morality to the proceedings, one in which decadence is its own punishment.

Dec 14, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

"The Favourite" is an uproarious send-up of the aloofness of royals, and comes alive thanks to its sterling ensemble cast (Nicholas Hoult is also worthy of note, playing a young British statesman) and Lanthimos' pristine direction.

Dec 13, 2018 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

It is Colman who steals the film from everyone - Lanthimos included.

Dec 7, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

I command you to see it.

Dec 6, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

I started jotting down clever dialogue from "The Favourite" in my notepad but I had to stop when I realized I was essentially transcribing the entire script.

Dec 6, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

For those with a taste for historical fiction, The Favourite is a delicious morsel with a spicy aftertaste.

Dec 5, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Favourite

It would seem that, to gauge a review of the latest Yorgos Lanthimos film, would be to know ones opinions on past Lanthimos films. Having only seen his two most recent works a la his Colin Farrell vehicles I was mixed, but very much intrigued by anything the guy decided to lend his voice to. In terms of The Favourite it is also of note that this is the first of Lanthimosï¿ 1/2(TM) projects where the filmmaker didnï¿ 1/2(TM)t also write the screenplay with frequent collaborator Efthymis Filippou. And so, while it feels strange to say it about a film as unique and frankly, as weird as, The Favourite this is by far Lanthimosï¿ 1/2(TM) most accessible film. Doesnï¿ 1/2(TM)t hurt its damn funny to boot either. The Favourite is one of those movies where it feels as if the intention of the piece as a whole came together in exactly the way the creator imagined. Whether it be in the visual aspect, the tone, the music, or the comedy elicited from each of these elements, The Favourite captures the essence of Lanthimosï¿ 1/2(TM) personality in such a fun and often riotous way that it would seem impossible the film was meant to be conceived in any other fashion. Itï¿ 1/2(TM)s as delicious as it is vicious and much of this is due to the trio of wonderful performances at the front of the film. Of course, the arc of each character helps and it is how Lanthimos and cinematographer Robbie Ryan (American Honey) document these arcs in wide angle lenses, often times with a fish-eye perspective, to show-off the grandiosity of the architecture and indulgences of the period as contrasted by the select few who were actually allowed to enjoy such indulgences that really provides this throughline reason as to why two of the three main characters are so willing to do whatever it takes to maintain this lifestyle. Olivia Colmanï¿ 1/2(TM)s Queen Anne, a tragic figure, who had to substitute pet rabbits in place of the seventeen (seventeen!) children she lost-is a woman who feels no love yet has everyone falsely pining for her affection given the power her approval provides. Rachel Weiszï¿ 1/2(TM)s Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough, has been a life-long friend of the Queenï¿ 1/2(TM)s and her counsel for seemingly everything including the present war between England and France. Sarah uses her intimacy with the queen to control matters of state, but Emma Stoneï¿ 1/2(TM)s Abigail-Sarahï¿ 1/2(TM)s cousin who has fallen from her nobility and seeks to reclaim some semblance of respect-recognizes the players and begins playing a very different game than Sarah has mastered. Abigail is initially the subject of our sympathy though it becomes more and more evident how clever and manipulative she is and how well she knows how to use her wide-eyed look of innocence to deceive those around her or, at the very least, get them to play along with her instead of Sarah (most notably, Nicholas Hoult in what is a flat-out fantastic performance). And while the rivalry that emerges is the obvious component of the story what is more interesting is the reversal of perspective on how the viewer sees Sarah and Abigail and how this devolves into a conclusion that sees everyone who was trying to get ahead ultimately screwing themselves over and becoming trapped in roles that serve as the opposite of what was once ideal. The Favourite offers prime examples of how cinema can be used to its full extent in nearly every aspect. The look of the film is rich in color and texture while the wide angles and large panning movements with multiple characters in frame lend a scope that matches the lengths these women are willing to go to in order to serve a master who might serve them right. Stone, Weisz, and Colman are each glorious in their own unique ticks and charms and the supporting cast-including all the bunnies and ducks-are only utilized to further illustrate this very specific tone Lanthimos is chasing. The fact itï¿ 1/2(TM)s difficult to imagine the film in any other way, as the product of any other filmmaker, only serves to show how singular a work it is and therefore how good Lanthimos is at his job.

Philip Price
Philip Price

Super Reviewer

½

A nasty, vicious, and hilarious black comedy. Colman, Weisz, and Stone hit every note perfectly and Lanthimos's direction is just weird enough to make this movie not feel like any other piece of historical fiction.

Alec Barniskis
Alec Barniskis

Super Reviewer

ALL TEA, ALL SHADE - My Review of THE FAVOURITE (4 Stars) I've never been a fan of the "Tea And Corsets" genre of films. The problems (and speech patterns) of the 1% who live in castles and bask in their own entitlement never did it for me. Watching people in frilly outfits tut-tutting about while the audience knowingly titters away with smug self-satisfaction has always made me want to go watch "the game" at Barney's Beanery instead...which is always a terrible idea. Leave it to director Yorgos Lanthimos (THE LOBSTER, THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER) and writers Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara to turn this genre on its ears and produce an outrageous, so-so wrong, scabrous piece of agitprop cinema which feels like BARRY LYNDON threw up all over BOUND, took a dump on ALL ABOUT EVE, all whilst deleting every download of DOWNTON ABBEY and peeing on DANGEROUS LIAISONS. The film stars Emma Stone as the seemingly innocent Abigail, who in the early 18th century, arrives at the castle door of an ailing and mentally unstable Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), whose affairs (especially a war with France) get handled by her "favourite", the tough, hardened Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Because they're related, Sarah employs Abigail as a scullery maid, a far cry from Abigail's former stature, but a gig is a gig. Faster than you can say "Margo Channing better watch her back", Abigail usurps Sarah's position as "the favourite". Busy dealing with a Parliament whose opposing sides have their own nefarious ways of handling the war, Sarah neglects the Queen, leaving Abigail the chance to slyly worm her way into the Queen's dark inner circle. These machinations include the wonderful push/pull of Lord Marlborough (Mark Gatiss) and Harley (a hilarious performance by Nicholas Hoult) as well as the hilariously physical courtship of Masham (Joe Alwyn), who can't resist Abigail's charms, which as played by Stone are charms of the nasty, ill-intentioned, and vile variety. I won't spoil the surprises, of which there are many, but suffice it to say, sexuality, rants, and double crosses play a large part in the story. It's not perfect. It's often repetitive and Lanthimos' cinematographer, the talented Robbie Ryan (AMERICAN HONEY) overdoes the use of the fish-eye lens to the point where it CLOCKWORK ORANGE'd me to death. The score by frequent Lanthimos collaborator, Johnnie Burn, who once again favors bombast over subtlety, can get annoying at times, but it's appropriately as in-you-face as the film itself. I also applaud the nice touch of including Elton John's early, harpsichord-laden "Skyline Pigeon" over the closing credits. None of this matters, however, when you have three actors who know exactly how to fit into the Lanthimos' vision. Both Weisz and Colman have done stellar work with this director before, so it's no surprise that they're great. Colman has a field day with her outrageous attack on her role, while Weisz's curt line deliveries and "I've got a huge dick" butch posturing will easily make her THE lesbian icon for the ages. Meanwhile, Stone relishes her chance to play sociopath who claws her way back to her former social position. She's hateful and awful and has the best side eye I've ever seen. Just watch her get into a carriage as she looks back on her enemy. Of course, she suffers her share of abuse and battering throughout, in case you thought this film lacked morality of any kind, but an argument can be made that a lack of morals is the only way to survive in this wicked world. Lanthimos goes all arty with a final overlapping shot of such Ken Russell proportions, that I marveled at its ambiguity while just basking in its crazy pants vision. Lanthimos remains an acquired taste at best, but THE FAVOURITE falls in line with the nihilistic world view he has previously explored. This time, however, the comedy instead of the horror, takes center stage, making this his most "commercial" film yet. Sometimes a made up nasty work was enough to elicit gasps from the audience, and I can't wait for them to enter our lexicon. You'll know them when you hear them. I still don't care about the Castle Crowd, but at least this film made me laugh when I wasn't doing spit-takes....and this movie should launch a thousand Olivia Colman memes...and rightly so.

Glenn Gaylord
Glenn Gaylord

Super Reviewer

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