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The Favourite sees Yorgos Lanthimos balancing a period setting against rich, timely subtext - and getting roundly stellar performances from his well-chosen stars.
All Critics (361)
| Top Critics (43)
| Fresh (337)
| Rotten (24)
Yorgos Lanthimos' dryly funny historical feature is all about power, and that means literally wearing the pants in a strange time.
Weisz and Stone are both brilliantly witty and nimble, but Colman's performance is nothing short of sublime.
As well as being [Lanthimos'] biggest production so far, this is by far his most pleasurable, with three Oscar-worthy performances.
Despite its period setting, The Favourite just might be Lanthimos's most trenchant and relevant work yet.
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.
"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.
The Favourite is a complex and bewildering essay by Yorgos Lanthimos on the pathetic necessities of political power. [Full review in Spanish]
The film belongs to Stone, who goes from cleaning floors to advising the queen. [Full review in Spanish]
A scrumptious confection laced with poison."
On occasion, a film like "The Favourite" comes along to upend convention and tell a compelling historical narrative with visceral, vicious energy.
Delicious and vicious, the early 18th century court of Queen Anne has never looked loopier and more fascinatingly relevant than in The Favourite.
"Lanthimos has directed his first major work. Or his first masterpiece?".
Whether you call yourself a fan of the films that Yorgos Lanthimos directs or not, itâ(TM)s without question that his movies arenâ(TM)t for everyone. They are pieces of art that not everyone can understand or are even willing to try understanding. So take my review of The Favourite with a large grain of salt because Iâ(TM)m someone who can get into anything, no matter what the subject matter is. That being said, The Favourite is one of the most unique films of 2018 and for that reason alone, will have me remembering it for quite some time. While I donâ(TM)t think The Favourite is perfect in any way, I do feel like certain film fanatics will eat this one up. Thereâ(TM)s a reason this film is circulating around awards season (deservedly so), but I personally believe it deserves the recognition and not a win.
Set quite far into the past in England, The Favourite follows the servants of Queen Anne. As needy as she is invested romantically in her first hand servant, everything falls to pieces when a new one arrives in Abigail. Aside from a frowned-upon romance that does have a three-act structure throughout the course of this movie, my biggest complaint is that it felt a little light on story. There are other side plots and hints of backstory that are eluded to, but I felt a little short-changed when looking back on the filmâ(TM)s story as a whole. As I mentioned, The Favourite will be remembered for many reasons by film fans around the world, but I believe the story will be remembered far less than everything else this film has to offer.
From the very first shot of this film to the time the credits rolled, I was enthralled by how impeccably filmed this movie was. It should come as no surprise when you have a cinematographer like Robbie Ryan at the helm. While I havenâ(TM)t seen a lot of films that he has worked on, I absolutely loved his work on both American Honey and Slow West. He has a keen eye for camera work and I canâ(TM)t wait to see what he does next. On top of that, the score present throughout this movie is incredibly engaging, to say the least. This is a very tight screenplay, with not very many breaths taken between lines of dialogueâ"but when there is, the score takes over in a majorly memorable way.
Since weâ(TM)re on the topic of things to remember about this film, the cast is near perfect in every way. I normally donâ(TM)t say that about many movies, because thereâ(TM)s usually at least one casting choice that throws me off, but The Favourite is immaculate in that regard. From Emma Stone giving her all, to Rachel Weisz giving her best performance in years, to Olivia Colman as the Queen, I was either laughing hysterically or sucked in by a dramatic delivery. If for nothing else, this is a movie thatâ(TM)s worth seeing for the performances alone. Donâ(TM)t be shocked if you see this cast sweeping many of the female awards categories in the coming weeks.
In the end, The Favourite is nearly perfect on a technical level, but the substance itself felt slightly lacking to me. The screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara packs a heavy punch in terms of the dialogue throughout and I found myself remembering moments in David Fincher films where the dialogue flies a mile a minute, which are my favourite kind of screenplays. Overall, I canâ(TM)t say this is one of the best films of the year, like many critics are, but I can recognize that certain elements absolutely are. I had a great time watching this movie and certain viewers will as well. If youâ(TM)re not intrigued by the trailer for this one, I donâ(TM)t believe the movie will do a good job of winning you over.
A stinky mud of baroque malice, royal indecency and twisted intrigue makes this a deliciously diabolical period dramedy that may be more grounded in reality than Lanthimos's previous films and yet feels like a bizarre version of All About Eve, had it been penned by a perverse Jane Austen.
This film strangely bounces back and forth from a period piece to a parody, making it very unique in many ways, but holding it back in others. Since it never dives into its comedic side, this film doesn't claim any laugh out loud moments, and since it never fully embraces its dramatic side, the storyline involving the power struggle between Sarah and Abigail never feels fully fleshed out. Coleman, Weisz and Stone all do good jobs with their characters, and the strange blend of absurdity and historical accuracy is very interesting, but the screenplay feels a little too simple and falls short of this film's full potential.
As soon as I saw the name Yorgos Lanthimos attached to the royal costume drama The Favourite I knew it would be one of my most anticipated films of 2018. I'm not naturally a sucker for these kinds of movies without some interesting new angle (Mary Queen of Scotts, we'll meet soon), but Lanthimos has quickly become one of my favorite (favoruite?) voices in cinema, rivaling perhaps even the esteemed Charlie Kaufman. His movies are so wonderfully weird and tonally distinct. A Lanthimos joint, if you will, is two hours of surprises and expanding the surreal with assured foresight. He's earned such a highly regarded reputation as far as I'm concerned that I'll see any movie with his name attached in any creative capacity. The Favourite is a different kind of costume drama.
In the early 18th century, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is leading her country through a protracted conflict with the French that is weighing heavily on everyone. Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) is the Queen's childhood friend, close confidant, and secret lover. She's also perhaps the real power behind the throne, directly influencing the Queen to enact her own bullish policies. Harley (Nicholas Hoult), leader of a parliament, is worried about the country going bankrupt from the military expenditures. Enter Abigail (Emma Stone), a cousin to Sarah and someone seeking to save her once proud family's name. She rises through the ranks and becomes a rival for the Queen's affections and a threat for Sarah to maintain her position of power in the court and with the Queen.
What distinguishes a Lanthimos experience is the development and commitment to a distinct vision and the sheer unpredictability. You really never know where the man's films will go next. One minute you're following a man struggle to find a romantic partner, and the next they're talking about turning people into lobsters. One minute you're watching a family deal with a creepy stalker, and the next people are debating which family member should be killed in the darkest family game night ever enabled. Even though Lanthimos did not write The Favoruite, it still feels of his unique, deadpan, darkly comic worlds and his fingertips are all over it. The story is already playing fast and loose with the history (it's pretty unlikely Queen Anne was a lesbian, despite the centuries of character assassination from Sarah) so its curiosity where it might go next is electric, especially when it shows some bite. This is a movie that's not afraid to be dark, where characters can behave badly, testing our sympathy and allegiance as they fight for supremacy. I love how unapologetic the characters are in their pursuits. They will scheme and manipulate to whatever extent works and demonstrate abuse of power for power's sake (poor bunny). "Favor is a breeze the shifts direction all the time," says Harley. "Then in an instant you're back sleeping with a bunch of scabrous whores." The ensuring two hours of palace intrigue and political gamesmanship is given a sordid boost from the historical deviations, making the political more personal and even more intriguing. I cackled often throughout with the amazingly witty one-liners and curt insults as well as the wonky asides and tonal juxtaposition. It's a funny movie for offbeat audiences who enjoy offbeat humor.
This is a costume drama that is radical amongst the stuffy world of prim and proper Oscar bait involving kings and queens and the ostentatious royal courts. I'd say it reminds me of Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon and how it broke from the long film tradition of costume dramas, but I've never watched Barry Lyndon, my lone Kubrick omission (what, do you have three hours to spare?). Lanthimos has an anachronistic visual style that allows The Favourite to feel modern and different as it plays in familiar terrain. What other Oscar drama can you expect to see a modern dance-off in the queen's court? The visuals make use of very stylized deep photography with the use of fish-eyed lenses and a locked camera position even while panning and moving. It's not exactly the colorful, punk rock aesthetic of Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette but it gives the film a dreamlike, odd sensibility. It's a nice visual pairing that achieves the same effect as the screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tom McNamara; it piques your interest, drawing you closer with each moment.
Lanthimos requires a very specifically attuned ironic wavelength that comes across as purposely deadpan, muted to better make the bizarre as the mundane. It's a type of acting that can be very restrictive unless an actor can tap into that specific rhythm. The three women that top line The Favourite are each terrific. Colman (taking over Queen Elizabeth from Claire Foy in Netflix's The Crown) is the standout as the temperamental monarch. Her favor is the prize and at some level she knows that people are playing games with her. It's hard to know what degree of self-awareness Queen Anne is capable of considering she is beset by maladies both physical and mental (she really did lose 17 children in her lifetime, a dozen of them miscarriages). Because of all of this, the unpredictable nature of the Queen matches the unpredictable nature of the film, and one second she can be childish and defiant, the next playful and warm-hearted, the next manipulative and pushy, the next easily cowed and embarrassed. It's a performance that has definite comic high-points as she howls at her servants and confuses her confidants, but there are layers to the character that Colman digs into. Sure she can be volcanic in rage or extremely funny when giving into the Queen's whims, but it's the degrees of sadness and vulnerability that creep through that round out the performance and person.
Weisz (Disobedience) has already starred in one kooky Lanthimos film (The Lobster) and easily slips into those peculiar comic rhythms again like a nicely fitting dress. Hers is the "fall" of the rise-and-fall tale, so she begins self-satisfied and ends humbled, except under Weisz she is never truly humbled. Her spirit does not break regardless of her unfortunate circumstances, including at one point being held hostage at a brothel. Even when she knows she must write a gracious letter she can't help herself, composing drafts that keep veering into profane insults. Weisz is deliciously deadpan and never abandons the confines of that narrow acting range required for a pristine Lanthimos performance. Stone (La La Land) is the freshest face of the troupe as the underestimated young companion who rises through the ranks thanks to her cunning. Stone adopts a solid British accent, which is helpful, but her intonations are perfectly suited for Lanthimos. There are small, stranger moments where the character is breaking the facade with the audience to reveal an eager peculiarity, an imitation of a monster that's random, or the most delightfully dismissive "yeah, sure" snort in the history of film. Stone is a versatile talent with comic bonafides, so it's fun and satisfying to see her expand her already impressive, Oscar-winning range.
This is a movie that does not work without a distinct vision, sure handed direction, and pitch-perfect acting, all seamlessly working in tandem to create such a finely crafted dark comedy that can go in many perversely entertaining directions at a moment's notice. Lanthimos and his cadre of award-worthy actresses have great, prankish fun playing dress up in their fancy locations and making a costume drama with a dash of anarchic farce. The Favourite doesn't quite rise to the top of my own list of Lanthimos favorites (I'd probably rank it a noble third) but it's still a razor-sharp, sardonic, unpredictable, and wonderfully, vibrantly weird movie worth celebrating.
Nate's Grade: A-
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