Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: Sexual material, offensive language and content that may disturb
Olivia Colman as 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
James Smith as Sidney Godolphin
Jenny Rainsford as Mae
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
In the 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 (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail (Emma Stone), arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.
The Favourite is a movie I was looking forward to. While Yorgos Lanthimos isn’t a director for everyone, I have watched The Lobster and Killing of a Sacred Deer and I liked them both, and it would be interesting to see him take on a period piece. On top of that it’s also starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Nicholas Hoult, all very talented actors. The trailer was very weird and darkly hilarious and looked like something truly unique, so all in all I was really excited for The Favourite. Thankfully The Favourite lived up to all the hype, with the writing, performances and direction all accompanying each other excellently.
This is the first script directed by Yorgos that he didn’t write, with the script instead coming from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, which was written in the late 90s but was finally adapted to the big screen in 2018. While there’s still some movies I need to get around to watch, I’m pretty sure that The Favourite is the most quotable movie of the year. The dialogue is incredibly sharp, well written and hilarious. The Favourite is actually only 2 hours long and throughout that entire runtime I was really entertained, there was not a single moment where I thought the movie dragged. The Favourite really is one of the best written movies of the year. The Favourite is a dark comedy, and it definitely leans more into being a comedy than a drama. Much of the comedy is poking fun at things that happened at the time like how duck racing was a thing apparently and a very bizarre dance scene involving Rachel Weisz and another character (although the movie doesn’t fall into spoof territory either). Some of the comedy however also comes from situations as well as from the hilarious dialogue (as previously mention). At times The Favourite also leans into the more dramatic and tragic side of the story, and when it does take the forefront in some scenes, it doesn’t feel out of place and really works. The third act is especially tragic and dark. Not spoiling anything, but while I think the ending really works, I’m not quite sure what to make of the last shot of the whole film.
The cast here all did a great job. Something interesting is the way that the actors are directed here. In Yorgos’s other films, while the actors are great in their roles they all speak their dialogue and act in this very unnatural way, and it feels like a very deliberate decision by the director. With The Favourite however, they seemed to have been given much more freedom and seem to act a little more natural. The three main women, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are all fantastic in their roles, each giving at the very least one of their best performances of their careers. Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne and her character is very complex, with many layers to her and her behaviour constantly changing from scene to scene and sometimes within the same scene. It’s both a comedic performance and a tragic performance, and Colman effortlessly is great in the role. Rachel Weisz is great as Sarah, the queen’s ‘favourite’ at the beginning of the film, who is her advisor and often the one steering her and making the decisions for her. Emma Stone has already proven herself to be a really great actress but this is really her best performance yet as Abigail, a servant looking to work her way back up the royal ranks. Both of them are fighting over trying to be ‘The Favourite’ and like with Colman’s character, aren’t all that they initially seem to be. Sarah is at first shown to be pretty ruthless and cold, especially towards Anne, however you eventually see more sides to her and that relationship as the story goes on. Same goes for Abigail, at the beginning she is much more of a likable character and one that the audience can seemingly root for, however as time goes on she shows herself to be very manipulative and not at all how she initially appeared to be. All 3 of them have a lot to work with, with their characters being very multi-layered. They aren’t necessarily likable or what you would call ‘good people’ but they are fascinating and entertaining to watch. The supporting cast are also great but it’s Nicholas Hoult who surprisingly stands out among them. Hoult has proven his talents many times before but he really managed to make himself stand out even among the phenomenal performances by the main 3 leads. He plays such a scheming and hilarious politician character and he steals every scene that he’s in. Definitely a performance that deserves a lot more praise than he’s been receiving.
You can definitely tell that this is a Yorgos Lanthimos film with the way the film is directed. There are many parts to the film that feel weird, whether it be with the cinematography, the camera movements, the use of slow-mo, it has that familiar strange vibe that you get from Lanthimos’s other films, and I loved it. The Favourite really is a period piece movie like you’ve never seen it before. With that said, the production design, costumes, really all of those aspects at a level of quality that you’d expect from most period piece movies, it feels authentic in its setting. The use of music was also really great, and really added a lot to the film whenever it was used. The only negative I found with the direction was the use of fish eye lens. I get that it was used to give off a really off-putting and weird vibe, but some of the wide angle shots did that well enough, going fish eye was a little overkill and it was more often than not used in just random moments that don’t call for that. It’s a tad distracting but nothing movie-breaking.
With its killer script, great direction and fantastic performances, The Favourite is one of the best films of the year. It’s also my favourite film by Yorgos Lanthimos, it’s certainly his most entertaining and accessible movie. Definitely a big awards player (and deservedly so), The Favourite is worth a watch whenever you can see it.