Review: The Favourite sees director Yorgos Lanthimos recontextualizing 18th-century British royalty. A searing dark comedy featuring many of 2018s’s best performances, including Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz.
In the illustrious world of historical dramas, where corsets are cinched tight, wigs reach towering heights, and power struggles play out like chess games with lives in the balance, Yorgos Lanthimos‘ The Favourite enters the scene like a tempestuous whirlwind. It’s a film that defies convention, reveling in a disarming blend of dark humor, venomous wit, and superbly executed performances.
Set in the early 18th-century British royal court, The Favourite presents a chillingly accurate portrait of a court engulfed in political turmoil, personal intrigue, and power dynamics. At the heart of this labyrinthine world stands Queen Anne, brilliantly portrayed by Olivia Colman. Colman’s performance is nothing short of remarkable, capturing the mercurial nature of a queen grappling with tragedy and loneliness. She oscillates between childlike vulnerability and ruthless authority, leaving us both sympathetic and terrified by her actions.
Rachel Weisz, as Sarah Churchill, duchess of Marlborough, exudes strength and cunning. Her relationship with Queen Anne is the film’s emotional fulcrum, and Weisz’s portrayal makes it riveting to watch. Weisz effortlessly navigates the complex layers of her character, veering from loyalty to manipulation, depending on the political winds.
But it’s the arrival of Emma Stone‘s Abigail Hill that truly sets the stage for this power struggle. Stone transforms from a naive country girl into a master manipulator, weaving her way into the Queen’s heart and the political machinations of the court. Her performance is a revelation, showcasing her malleability as an actress. Abigail’s gradual ascent and her clashes with Sarah create the narrative tension that propels the story.
Mixed up in all of this is Harley (Nicholas Hoult), a cunning and witty member of Parliament. Hoult’s magnetic presence and scene-stealing charisma inject a dose of dark comedy into the mix. He’s the jester of the court, providing a satirical commentary on the absurdity of power dynamics while seeking to further his own agenda.
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The Favourite is unmistakably a Yorgos Lanthimos film, bearing his signature deadpan comedy and discomfort-inducing scenarios. Lanthimos masterfully employs this style to accentuate the dark humor of the courtly drama. The absurdity of the characters’ actions and dialogue often leaves us in a state of uneasy laughter, much like Lanthimos’ previous works.
Beneath the laughter and the grandeur of the royal court, The Favourite explores the irresistible allure of power. It lays bare the lengths to which people will go to attain and maintain it, even at the cost of their humanity. The film doesn’t flinch from showcasing the moral decay that accompanies unchecked ambition and the corrupting influence of power.
And visually, The Favourite is a feast for the eyes. The opulent costumes, ornate sets, and the use of natural light by cinematographer Robbie Ryan transport us to a bygone era. Lanthimos and his team have meticulously recreated the world of the early 18th century, immersing us in its decadence and excess. The occasional use of fish-eye lenses is stunning and singular to Lanthimos’ style, which lets you peer inside a world of morally questionable individuals.
The Favourite is a darkly comedic masterpiece that revels in its own wickedness. It’s a film that refuses to adhere to the conventions of historical drama, choosing instead to blaze its own trail with venomous humor and impeccable performances. It’s a power struggle for the ages, where the players are as ruthless as they are captivating. In the end, Yorgos Lanthimos has delivered a royal rebellion that’s as bold and audacious as the characters within it. Long live The Favourite.
Where to stream The Favourite: VOD
The Favourite Film Cast and Credits
Olivia Colman as Queen Anne
Emma Stone as Abigail Hill
Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill
Nicholas Hoult as Robert Harley
Joe Alwyn as Samuel Masham
Mark Gatiss as John Churchill
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cinematography: Robbie Ryan
Editor: Yorgos Mavropsaridis