The Favourite - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Favourite Reviews

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January 20, 2019
This is seriously the worst film I have ever seen at the cinema! Create a costume drama which is historically inaccurate, add a liberal amount of unnecessary sex and nudity plus liberal use of the 'f' and 'c' words, not forgetting the occasional bit of vomiting, but pay little attention to the story line and what do you get? A film that appeals greatly to the pretentious wierdos that inhabit the art world but little to anyone who simply enjoys a good movie. This is advertised as a comedy but the only laughs I heard were from people who were leaving the cinema who couldn't believe how such an unbelievably bad movie could get such high ratings from some of the film critics! From now on I will spend more attention to audience reviews and less to the 'professional' art critics whom, it would appear, need to spend more time with their psychiatrists!
½ January 19, 2019
THE WORST MOVIE EVER. THOUGHT IT WOULD NEVER END. DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY ON THIS ONE.
Super Reviewer
January 19, 2019
Overrated? Most assuredly, but utterly engaging from beginning to end. Not Yorgos' most humorous piece, but technically sound and brilliantly acted.

Final rating:â~...â~...â~... - I liked it. Would personally recommend you give it a go.
½ January 19, 2019
Super performances, well written, engaging. Witty. and overall, a delight.
½ January 19, 2019
Overly long, especially considering the very shallow story line. 2 long hours of watching two women vie for the attention of a Queen by extending her sexual favors. Anachronistic overuse of the F-bomb and C-word. I was disgusted and I am not a prude. I am astonished that Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz agreed to act in such a movie. I have not been tempted to get up and leave a movie for years. I wish I had. I can't believe a Hollywood studio thought the movie with garner enough attraction to make money. When the lights came up after the end of the movie, the other theater goers had either puzzled, disgusted, or stunned Expressions on their face. There was total silence as everyone left. Horrible horrible movie
January 19, 2019
The Favouriteâ¦. was the worst movie I have seen in theater. I created an account simply to review this movie. The movie is about as mundane, bumpy, and unnecessary as the opening scene. The plot twist could be discerned halfway through the movie, and made everything from there on seem - pointless. 2/10 save your money.
January 19, 2019
I was very disapointed in this film. I thought Emma Stone was very good, but it tells you nothing about the reign of Queen Anne and just made me feel like
I want to research this period of history.
½ January 19, 2019
It was one of the worst films i have ever seen. Do not watch. Dont listen to the critics.
½ January 19, 2019
Seemed to be a rather bad piss take on the British Monarchy.
Not historically accurate at all and the lesbianism highly unlikely given Anne was constantly nursing her sick husband and a religious prude. James I on the other hand..
Just ridiculous!
January 19, 2019
Worth watching once, wont be everyones taste.
January 19, 2019
Worst film I've seen in a while. It's such a shame as it had everything to be good, but was so poorly executed. Give it a miss.
January 18, 2019
Wow that was different...not what I expected...love Emma Stone....all 3 actresses were excellent!!
January 18, 2019
The Favourite, the seventh feature from Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos, is a film that eschews both convention and expectation. On the other hand, it's also Lanthimos's most accessible by a country mile. Imagine, if you will, a narrative combining All About Eve, Viskningar och rop, and Mean Girls filtered through the aesthetic sensibilities of Barry Lyndon, The Draughtsman's Contract, and Dangerous Liaisons, topped off with a dash of Luis Buñuel at his most socially satirical, and you'll be some way towards imagining this bizarre and uncategorisable film from a director with as unique and distinctive a voice as you're likely to find in world cinema. A savage morality play, a camp comedy of manners, a Baroque tragedy, an allegorical study of the corruptive nature of power - it's all of these and yet none of them. I haven't seen Lanthimos's first two films, O kalyteros mou filos (2001) and Kinetta (2005), but I adored Kynodontas (2009), as difficult as it was to watch. I was a little indifferent to Alpeis (2011), but I loved The Lobster (2015), his blackest comedy thus far. His last film, however, The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) did very little for me, as I felt it offered nothing we hadn't seen in his previous work. So I came to The Favourite wanting to like it, but ready to dislike it. And I find myself somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, it's too long, the plot too threadbare, and the metaphors and allegories too ill defined. On the other, the acting is flawless, it looks amazing, the first half is very, very funny, and the end is very, very dark, with the last shot one of the most haunting/disturbing images I've seen in a long time.

England, 1708. Queen Anne (an absolutely mesmerising Olivia Colman) has been on the throne for six years, with Great Britain finding itself enmeshed in the War of the Spanish Succession. In poor health, Anne has little interest in politics, with the real power lying with her friend, adviser, and secret lover Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (an icy Rachel Weisz). Sarah and Prime Minister
Sidney Godolphin (James Smith) plan to finance the war effort by doubling property taxes, but are opposed by the leader of the opposition - Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford (Nicholas Hoult). Meanwhile, Sarah's impoverished younger cousin, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone, charting a course from doe-eyed ingénue to vicious Machiavellian intrigant), arrives at Court looking for work. Sarah secures her a position as a scullery maid, but when Abigail learns that Anne is suffering from gout, she uses a herbal remedy on the sleeping Queen without asking permission. Sarah has her whipped for her presumption, but Anne sees a noticeable improvement in her condition, and by way of apology, Sarah gives Abigail a position closer to the Queen. With Harley hoping to use Abigail as a spy to find out what Sarah is planning, and Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn), a foppish courtier, attempting to woo her, Abigail must quickly adapt to courtly life. Learning of the lesbian relationship between Anne and Sarah, Abigail begins to ingratiate herself with the Queen, leading to a bitter contest between herself and Sarah, as each attempt to establish themselves as Anne's favourite.

The Favourite is the first film Lanthimos has directed which neither he nor Efthymis Filippou wrote. Although it deals with real historical personages and events, historians probably won't be too thrilled to learn that Lanthimos and his screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara are relatively uninterested in either historical actuality or socio-political contextualisation (to say nothing of the slam dancing and frequently anachronistic dialogue). For example, there's no reference to the Glorious Revolution (1688), which saw James II, the last Catholic monarch of England, overthrown; or to the Treaty of Union (1707), which formally brought the state of Great Britain into existence. Similarly, it is never mentioned that Anne was the last Stuart monarch or that Abigail was appointed Keeper of the Privy Purse in 1711. The nature of the political antagonism between the Tories and the Whigs, although often referred to and occasionally witnessed, is kept vague, with little in the way of an historical frame of reference. For example, the film never addresses the fact that Godolphin and Harley were both Tories, with Godolphin heading an administration dominated by leading Whigs (the Whig Junto), and Harley leading a coalition of Country Whigs and Tories in opposition.

On the other hand, there's no evidence whatsoever that Anne and Sarah were lovers. On the contrary, Sarah is known to have found lesbianism abhorrent, commissioning the politician Arthur Maynwaring to write scurrilous poems about Abigail which intimated that she might be gay. Additionally, Anne was devoted to her husband, Prince George of Denmark, who doesn't even warrant a mention, let alone an appearance, despite being alive and well at the time of Abigail's arrival at Court. However, it's also important to note that the film makes no claim to be a history lecture. This is a story about a love triangle, with everything else just the background noise against which that triangle plays out.

But although it may not be historically accurate, it is most definitely a Yorgos Lanthimos film, with his peculiar Weltanschauung omnipresent. The emotionless and monotone delivery of dialogue has been scaled back considerably from The Lobster and Sacred Deer, but everything else you'd expect is here - the pseudo-omniscient judgemental glare; the dark absurdist sense of humour; the formal rigidity; the emotional isolation of the characters; the surrealism; the games of psychological one-upmanship; the alienation of the audience; the thematic centrality of shifting power relations; the lack of distinction between poignancy and joviality; the use of self-contained and closed off pocket universes where characters must play by rules differing from those of the outside world; intimate familial conflict (except in bigger rooms than in his previous films); and a disorienting score, which mixes pieces by Purcell, Vivaldi, Handel, and Bach with more contemporary work from the likes of Olivier Messiaen, Luc Ferrari, and Anna Meredith, whilst the closing credits feature Elton John's "Skyline Pigeon" (really). Similarly, whilst The Lobster was a savage dystopian-set allegory for discipline and conformity, The Favourite is a merciless satire of decadence and pettiness, taking in such additional themes as class, gender, love, lust, duty, loyalty, partisan politics, patriarchal hegemony, and women behaving just as appallingly as men.

As one would expect from Lanthimos, the film is aesthetically flawless, with many of the compositions having the appearance of a fête galante painting, so meticulously integrated are Sandy Powell's costume design, Fiona Crombie's production design, and Robbie Ryan's cinematography. Powell's costumes are historically inaccurate, but thematically revealing, with the situation of the characters at any given moment directly influencing the design. For example, speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Powell says of Abigail and her rise to a position of influence, "I wanted to give her that vulgarity of the nouveau riche, and her dresses get a little bolder and showier. There's more pattern involved and there are black-and-white stripes. I wanted her to stand out from everybody else as trying too hard." In a more general sense, the black-and-white colour scheme of much of the wardrobe contrasts magnificently with Crombie's predominantly brown production design, with the actors effortlessly standing out from the backgrounds. The occasional use of black-and-white stripes is also worth mentioning, as it subliminally intimates that the characters are imprisoned, not so much by their physical milieu, but rather within the hypocrisy, pettiness, and forced politeness of the Royal Court.

Of Ryan's photography, perhaps the most impressive feat is that, despite the many scenes tracking characters through rooms, up stairs, and out doorways, there's not a single Steadicam shot anywhere in the film. He also makes copious use of 6mm fish-eye lenses, which distort the spaces the characters occupy whilst also showing much more of the environment than a normal lens, creating the sense of characters lost within an overload of background visual detail. Combined with the whip pans seen throughout the film, the cumulative effect is a world rendered strange, a place of distortion and unnatural compositions. As Ryan explains to Deadline, "by the nature of being able to see everything in front of you, you then get a sense that the characters are almost imprisoned in the location. Even though they have all this luxury and power, they are a little bit isolated in this world. By showing you the whole room and also isolating the character in a small space you get a feeling of no escape." As with most of Lanthimos' work, the film also uses natural light, which makes for some stunning candle-lit night-time compositions, partially recalling the paintings of someone like Jean-Antoine Watteau or, even moreso, Georges de La Tour.

In terms of acting, there really are no words to describe just how good Colman is. Utterly inhabiting the character, she is able to elicit empathy mere moments after behaving thoroughly shamefully, communicating a sense of both tragic inevitability and a childlike refusal to accept reality. The character could easily have been a grotesque villain or a pitiful broken shell, but Colman finds a nobler middle ground, straddling both interpretations without fully committing to either, moving from one to the other seamlessly throughout the film. Yes, she can be a horrible person with appalling manners and questionable hygiene, but she is also deeply lonely, a survivor who has lost 17 children in childbirth, a woman whose health has made her old before her time, a deeply tragic figure too naïve to see how badly she is being manipulated by Sarah and Abigail, something encapsulated brilliantly in the haunting last shot. Rather than trying to downplay the contradictory facets of the character, Colman leans into them, illuminating Anne's humanity amongst her least appealing characteristics, and finding both wit and pathos in a character whose mercurial nature and excessive neediness could easily have rendered her the film's antagonist. It truly is one of the finest on-screen performances in a long time.

Weisz and Stone are also both excellent. Weisz plays Sarah as a clinical manipulator, highly intelligent and relatively emotionless, whereas Stone's Abigail grows from a guileless chambermaid to a vindictive Janus-faced usurper. However, even at her most outrageous, there remains always something of the innocent girl we met earlier in the film.

The film's most salient theme, one could argue its very raison d'être, is the dynamic of gender politics. For starters, it's headlined by three actresses (something which is still rare enough as to be notable), whilst the only two male characters of any significance (Godolphin and Harley) are both portrayed as petty, vainglorious idiots. Indeed, men in general are background players, existing only to be mocked, exploited, and duped - with their ridiculous wigs and heavy makeup, they exist only to support the women. Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Powell explains that Lanthimos wanted the women to have natural hair and light makeup, and the men to wear gaudy makeup and ridiculous wigs; "normally films are filled with men, and the women are the decoration in the background, and I've done many of those, so it was quite nice for it to be reversed this time where the women are the centre of the film and the men are the decoration in the background." Similarly, speaking to the Hollywood Reporter, Weisz explains, "what's interesting to me is that the men in The Favourite are wearing lots of makeup and blusher and lipstick and high heels. That they're peripheral characters who are slightly ridiculous. They're an afterthought. That may not be unusual in life, but it's unusual to see in films."

However, what's especially interesting about the film's depiction of gender is that the world of women is anything but a utopia. Yes, it's relatively free of toxic masculinity and the male gaze, but in most other aspects, there's no real difference between the matriarchy and the patriarchy. Sure, the women are much smarter than the men who surround them, but they are no less greedy or cruel. At the film's post-première press conference at the Venice Film Festival, Lanthimos explained, "what we tried to do is portray women as human beings. Because of the prevalent male gaze in cinema, women are portrayed as housewives, girlfriends... Our small contribution is we're just trying to show them as complex and wonderful and horrific as they are, like other human beings." Similarly, when asked by the Hollywood Reporter if a film about females treating each other badly might be considered a setback in a post #MeToo era, Colman explained, "How can it set women back to prove that women fart and vomit and hate and love and do all the things men do? All human beings are the same. We're all multifaceted, many-layered, disgusting and gorgeous and powerful and weak and filthy and brilliant. That's what's nice. It doesn't make women an old-fashioned thing of delicacy." The preening and pettiness of the men, of course, is purposely overdone (Harley proclaims at one point that "a man must look pretty"), creating a milieu where it is men, not women, who tend to be judged by their appearance, objectified, and used. Just look at the hilarious scene where Abigail coldly gives Masham a hand-job as she ruminates about more important matters - once she has gotten what she wants from him (his hand in marriage), she is no longer interested in him whatsoever, a direct reversal of traditional filmic gender roles, where it is usually men who use women. Men, in The Favourite, are utterly disposable.

As regards criticisms, although I personally wouldn't class them as flaws, some people will probably dislike the same things that many have disliked in Lanthimos's previous work - cold formal rigidity, perverse sense of humour, and irredeemable characters being irredeemably horrible to one another. There will be those who find the obviously intentional anachronisms too much, whilst others will take umbrage with the disregard for historical authenticity. For me, whilst I admire Lanthimos for trying to bring something new to his oeuvre, especially when compared to Sacred Deer, I felt the film was oftentimes trying to work its way through an identity crisis, unsure of exactly what kind of tone to settle on. I had similar feelings about the allegories that run throughout, but are never what you would call fully fleshed out. Obviously, it's a treatise on power and the ridiculous opulence of royalty, but that's not exactly an untapped issue in cinema. Additionally, one of my biggest problems with Sacred Deer was how utterly pointless it felt, and although I got a lot more out of The Favourite, I had something of the same reaction to it. It could also be argued that the characters are a little two dimensional, and filmgoers who need a protagonist to latch onto, someone to root for, will be left rudderless.

The Favourite will probably attract a sizable unprepared audience because of awards buzz, positive reviews, and excellent trailer. Undoubtedly, for a lot of people, this will be their first exposure to Lanthimos, and I can only imagine what people expecting a Merchant Ivory costume drama will make of it all. Neither morally enlightening nor historically respectful, The Favourite offers a bleak assessment of humanity's core drives; not Lanthimos's bleakest, but a hell of a lot more nihilistic than an average multiplex goer will be used to. The characters within the film live in a milieu of egotism, narcissism, sexual cruelty, psychological bullying, greed, and hunger for power. There's barely a hint of sentimentality, and very little that could be called morally righteous. I would have liked it to have more meat on its bones, but at the same time, one cannot deny that it presents something of a faithful looking-glass, as Lanthimos continues to corner the market in pointing out not just humanity's worst foibles, but its most egregious eccentricities and lamentable character defects.

7/10
January 18, 2019
A surprising refreshing dark comic take on English royalty. Will see it again.
January 18, 2019
Though very well acted the story is dishonest historically and gratuitously crude.
½ January 18, 2019
Really a waste of time and money! Olivia Coleman was Great, but the story is lame , and the production is lousy. Don't waste your time!
January 18, 2019
Ok but would not rave about it. Struggled to keep my attention
½ January 18, 2019
I booked two tickets to see this with my girlfriend this evening, £15 each in Clapham... we have seen many films together and not once have we left in such utter disappointment as we did this evening. What a horrendous film this is. To give you a flavour, if you go to watch this you will spend 2 hours of your life, which you will never get back, watching a lot of scenes involving gout, awkward ï¿ 1/2 1/2 1/2leg rubbingï¿ 1/2 1/2 1/2ï¿ 1/2 1/2ï¿ 1/2Â?, and a young servant crushing a rabbit with her kitten heel. 3 people actually left the cinema and I wish we had made it up to, 5 people. DO NOT SEE!!!!
January 18, 2019
The most praise I can give this movie is Olivia Colman's performance. She did an amazing job in her role. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz gave really good performances as well. The movie itself was huge letdown. I don't know anything about the director to know what kind of movies he makes and I had not seen any trailers before seeing the movie. I was expecting a serious drama like film. At the start I was trown off because it was going for comedy and sometimes weird comedy. Once I had gotten used to that, it would switch tones to the serious drama and would go back and forth throughout the film. These two tones did not work in one movie. The were some scenes that were meant to be funny but instead made me cringe. Olivia Colman's did a great job as Queen Anne and I don't know much about that queen so i don't known how historically accurate the film shows the character but in the film they had two versions of her. At times she is a childish person and other times she is a person how has clearly suffered great loss. Again, I don't what she was like in real life but I wish the film stuck to one version instead of going back and forth. Emma Stone's character was good for the first half of the film but mid-way through her character makes a huge change that had no clear motivation and the character became very unlikable. The directing was okay although some scenes had a Go-Pro like look to them which I did not like too much, some scenes REALLY dragged on, especially the last scene. The sound track was bad and at times the music felt like it belonged in other movies. The film felt like it was trying to be more then one type of film which made it feel messy. Overall I'd say it is a very bad film with great performances.

4.0/10
January 18, 2019
I would happily watch Olivia Coleman eat a bag of corn chips for 120 minutes, I love her. Luckily this film is superb, I'm British and I had no knowledge on this Queen at all ( or the interesting fictionalised tale of this film). Very good, well put together and for a period piece has some interesting angles and fish eyes lens' that actually...works. Good job worth seeing.
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