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 (175) | Top Critics (37)

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…

The real fun here is in the three central performances, each of which threatens to steal the film

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

As the intrigue heightens in The Favourite, so do the film's surreal touches.

Nov 30, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Favourite

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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