The Favourite (2018)
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For preparation of yesterdays screening I recently watched two of Yorgos Lanthimos' previous films: "The Lobster" and "The Killing Of A Sacred Deer". Both movies are very special in their own way so I didn't expect from "The Favourite" to be a normal 18th-whatever-century movie. Usually I'm not a big fan of historical/costume movies like this.
But what about "The Favourite"?
I have to admit that I was unaware of my feelings for the movie shortly after the end. Yeah it was "good", but was there more than that? A day later I'm still not 100% sure because I still think about it but I noticed that hour after hour I like this movie more. The story is really great and there are a lot of wicked but also hilarious scenes.
The three main actresses are definitely the highlight of the movie: Rachel Weisz is amazing and of course, Olivia Colman is outstanding. I wouldn't complain if she gets nominated for an Oscar next year, but can we talk about Emma Stone? Yes, I'm a fan, but I really think her performance is the best in the whole movie, maybe it's because she also plays the most interesting character.
I definitely have to see "The Favourite" again when it comes to the cinema sometime in January 2019 to make my final verdict. Until then I give 8 out of 10 and hopefully more next time.
At the time being, I would claim that this isn't my favorite-sorry-favourite of Lanthimos's filmography-The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer still hold that spot dearly to my heart-but I would doubtlessly claim that The Favourite is by a long-shot, Lanthimos's most gratifying and crowd-pleasing film. I did not expect to had had such a blast with this movie. Not only is it funny as hell, but the comradery and rivalry between Emma Stone's character and Rachel Weisz's character-both who by the way, give the most dexterous performances of this entire year-was just too much fun to take in. And Olivia Colman's performance as the queen...comical perfection.
The atmospherical tone of this movie also is one of the many aspects that won me over. It reputed like an old-fashioned, 1-on-1, battle of the minds movie, just with touches of Lanthimos's typical synthetic stylizations. It's the cherry on the top of this shrewd satire.
The Favourite might not be as poetically relevant to today's society like The Lobster, or as tramuatizingly stirring like The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but it's a playful piece of mental spectacle that is oddly bone-crushing, yet, pleasing, all at once. Loved nearly every second of it. Bravo, once again Sir Lanthimos. (Verdict: A)
However, the film isn't flawless, and it once again demonstrates that Lanthimos' greatest weakness as a director is his inability to deliver a satisfying conclusion. I loved THE LOBSTER, but the last ten minutes left a bitter taste in my mouth that I detested. I was a bit cooler on THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, and the last ten minutes proved a bit too dark for me. This time, even a great final shot isn't enough to save the last fifteen minutes of the film from seeming necessary. The film simply (and suddenly) runs out of steam before it crosses the finish line - an unfortunate occurrence considering the fact that nearly everything before it proved wickedly entertaining. That being said, I'm excited to see what Lanthimos does next. I just hope he nails the ending.
The film is about Queen Anne and her favourite Sarah Churchill. Churchill's cousin, Abigail Hill soon arrives to the kingdom looking for a job. She eventually gets close to the ailing Queen and Sarah and Abigail start to battle for the Queen's affection. The Queen has a history of health problems so she needs someone to attend to her consistently. The motives of Abigail seem unclear because she seems to have many different interests and pursuits. The film stars an excellent cast of Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, with supporting roles from Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn.
Yorgo's style is still ever present in this film. The camera uses fish eye and wide shots that encompass the entire grand scenery and decor of the castle. He uses natural lighting which is a common thread in his work. The characters are very well acted, especially Coleman who was just born to scream at servants and complain loudly about everything. I thought the film touches on a relationship between women but doesn't linger on it long enough. The film has comedic one liners as is expected from Lanthimos' work. Its a very interesting film with memorable characters with motivations you can't see.
The film is so very nice to look at but for me doesn't have as strong a presence of something like The Lobster. This is a historical work so I can see restrictions in the imagination that we are used to seeing from Lanthimos but its still a very interesting work because of the intricacies of the relationship between the three leads and how mad they become as the film goes along. its prim and proper in appearance but there's a royal madness to it all. Its worth the watch, and I'm excited for the next chapter of work from the filmmaker.
Your experience watching "The Favourite" will not be enhanced by a deep knowledge of the plot, or of the historical events that surround the story. Indeed, the film reflects England under Queen Anne in much the same way that Game of Thrones echoes the Wars of the Roses, which is to say: sorta. In the world of "The Favourite," historical figures blithely employ anachronistic dialogue. Slanderous allegations of yore become genuine plot points. If the movie were making any sort of pretense towards historical accuracy, this might all be grating. "The Favourite," however, is far more concerned with constructing its sophisticated narrative than with faithfully depicting 18th century Britain to impress the four historians in the audience.
Our players, affectionate, shrewd, and manipulative, are as follows: Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne-gout-ridden, somewhat simple, and yet warm. Rachel Weisz is Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough-the Queen's friend, confidante, and puppet-master. Emma Stone, rounding out the triumvirate, plays Abigail-a noble cousin to the Duchess who has fallen below her station (her condition is most delightfully represented by her appearance in court: slathered with excrement). Lady Marlborough employs Abigail as her own maid, bringing her into the Queen's sphere with dramatic consequences.
All three actresses are exemplary, imbuing their performances with expressions and tics that communicate the veiled struggle for influence that their dialogue disguises. As Lady Marlborough and Abigail begin to square off, the chemistry between Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone becomes electric, their interactions nuanced and pregnant with subtext. Were "The Favourite's" DVD release to mimic "Lord of the Rings," with an hour of extra footage of Sarah and Abigail sniping at one another, I assure you, I'd be first in line at the Blockbu...internet to purchase it. Olivia Colman, too, is extraordinary. Her Queen Anne is stubborn and self-destructive, feeble, and eminently manipulable. Yet she is also witty, loving, and canny, making her sympathetic, rather than simply pathetic.
Though the actors' respective roles could easily devolve into familiar tropes, "The Favourite" resists such simplification. Moral ambiguity is rife in "The Favourite." If you're hoping to divide the three leads into "good guys" and "bad guys," you will be continually disappointed. Such explicit designations (and the gendered assumptions implicit therein) have no place in this film. Each main character is, at times, manipulative, trusting, duplicitous, and loyal. They are, in short, human. Cruelty and ambition often live cheek-by-jowl with kindness and friendship in the human heart. If all this friction has you eagerly anticipating a "cat-fight," then I bid you welcome to 2018, Archie Bunker, but you, too, shall leave the theater disgruntled. You will find conflict to spare in "The Favourite," but it is hardly a voyeuristic fantasyland. I know, I know, way too much talky-talky and not enough sexy-slappy. I get it. Now run along to the box office and see if they'll still let you swap your ticket for Robin Hood.
"The Favourite" defies cinematic tradition by surrounding three complex, nuanced female characters with one-dimensional men. The male supporting cast is neither uninteresting nor unlikeable, but their motivations tend to be simple, their personalities, caricatures. These men's foppish displays are entertaining, no doubt, but they do not captivate the attention like the exchanges between Anne, Sarah, and Abigail. Turnabout is fair play, and this story demands sophisticated interplay between its three feminine leads, while only requiring men for the occasional plot device. Never fear, my masculine brethren. No fewer than six male-driven films were released around the same week as "The Favourite". The feminist takeover of Hollywood with deviations like "speaking roles for women" remains in its infancy.
Helming this new-age feminist hellscape is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, who deserves a great deal of credit for establishing the odd world of "The Favourite". Lanthimos' whole visual aesthetic is peculiar, with wide, fisheye lenses and odd, unexpected camera angles ("What if I put the camera under the table for this conversation?" I imagine him asking). In addition, Lanthimos does not like to use traditional film lighting. His exteriors rely on natural light, while his nighttime scenes give a real impression of being candle-lit, with hard shadows and dark corners. If Lanthimos wishes to unsettle the viewer with his aesthetic, he succeeds masterfully. Even during otherwise innocuous conversations, you may feel a creeping trepidation as your neck hairs stand on end. "The Favourite" isn't particularly off-putting or violent, but you will feel strangely uncomfortable, despite all the humor, until the credits roll.
Although "The Favourite" is thematically - and cinematically - dark, it is often also shockingly funny. The dialogue is snappy and well-tuned, and the actors' interplay with one another is perfectly coordinated. Dull, expository dialogue, usually wielded with all the subtlety of a self-important sledgehammer in historical dramas, here flits across the screen like a hummingbird, lingers briefly, and is gone again. Instead, a droll sort of whimsy prevails. At times, laughter felt wrenched from the audience, as we surprised ourselves with our own snorts of glee. Humor is rarely so cathartic as when your fingernails are digging grooves into your palms. It would be a mistake to classify "The Favourite" as a "comedy," I think, but for all its gloom, it is hardly grim. Complexity necessitates a balance between darkness and light; between tragedy and comedy. "The Favourite" deftly manages that tension better than most films.
"The Favourite" is not a movie for everyone. It will be too "much" for some, too weird for others, and, sadly, too woman-centric for many (one does not expect a tweet from our dear president, for instance, extolling his love for this film). Nevertheless, "The Favourite" is brilliant. The writing is witty, the sets are lavish, and the acting is exceptional. It is a symphony of odd, eccentric anachronisms that will leave you tearing through a dictionary for the right words to describe it, always coming up a bit short.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose last two films, "The Lobster" and "The Killing of a Sacred Deer," were marred by his determination to make his audience queasy, goes a little easier on us with this one. If you like his style, don't worry -- the film has his fingerprints all over it. But whereas those other films mentioned were so weird as to pull me out of the narrative, "The Favourite" is more like "Dogtooth," the film that introduced me to Lanthimos in the first place, in that the weirdness is hypnotic and kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to see where this whacky movie was going to go next. And unlike "The Lobster," which apparently was supposed to be a comedy, "The Favourite" actually made me laugh many times.
The acting is stellar, with Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone all giving crackerjack performances. The film explores the lengths to which people will go in order to yield power over one another. Though all three ladies get plenty of opportunities to shine, the film feels more "about" Abigail than anyone, and we watch her first wrestle with her morals as she realizes how skeezy she will have to be to beat Lady Sarah at her game, then commit to doing what she has to do to be top dog, and finally left wondering why she wanted to be top dog in the first place, a warning given to her by rival Lady Sarah that she refuses to heed. And Olivia Colman's Queen Anne is a wolf in sheep's clothing, her physical and emotional frailty a camouflage for her monstrous obsession with being adored.
"The Favourite" looks stunning, the kind of film that wins Oscars for production design, costume design, and cinematography but actually deserves them. The film reminded me once in a while of Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" in its look and tone, though "The Favourite" isn't afraid to get its hands dirty whereas "Barry Lyndon" remained stately and pristine.
Easily one of the best movies of the year.
Emma Watson and Rachel Weisz play well off each other as Abigail and Lady Sarah respectively. Olivia Coleman is a joy to watch as the frail but furiously combustible Queens Anne. Nicholas Hoult is solid in a supporting turn as the leader of Parliament opposition.
The film is loaded with Lanthimosian dark humor but also cold mystery and austere cinematography and camerawork. In time, we get to know the quirks, hidden secrets and impulses of all three characters as the court confronts the pressures of war with France and political instability at home- and more privately as the queen's closest female confidants duel for their place.
One of Lanthimos's best films to date, this one will keep you on the edge until the very last frame with one memorable sequence after another. Recommended to the highest degree.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos previously caught the attention (and admiration) of art house audiences with 2015's 'The Lobster,' followed by last year's 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer.' However this film is different, and it will justifiably earn Lanthimos a spot at the table reserved for Hollywood's elite directors.
The cast is outright brilliant. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Nicholas Hoult each deserve their own paragraph of praise. However, it is Colman who ultimately takes the cake for her performance (pun intended!). She looks to be the early front-runner for the Academy Award for Best Actress--a statement that is further bolstered by the fact that she just won that award category at the BAFTAs.
Expect her official nomination come January ... along with a slew of other nominations covering just about every Oscar category.
Lanthimos' unique cinematography is outstanding throughout, as are many of his commendable aesthetic choices that help enrich the film's unique quality and tone. The acting is generally strong throughout, with the distinct nature of each performance among the three lead actresses enhancing the viewing experience. Unfortunately, however, the film's script has a number of concerns. The film's writing attempts to be witty and funny much of the time, but such lines of wit and humor do not always land. Some of the more raunchy moments are well-placed, but others just feel puerile or ridiculous. For a prestige film from an acclaimed auteur revered by many serious film buffs, the film can end up feeling quite lowbrow at times, which can alienate the viewer from some of the more serious commentary of the time period Lanthimos is depicting, particularly with regards to the issue of gender roles and the patriarchal nature of the society and culture. The total shifts can be quite jarring, even more so when one stops to consider that not all scenes played for comedic effect are particularly funny or even amusing at face or literal value. A majority of the film is paced properly and well, yet the third act can come off as anti-climactic. Ultimately, while I didn't dislike "The Favourite," I did expect a bit more from what some pundits have determined will likely be a top-tier Oscar contender this fall. 6/10
Co-writers Deborah Davis (her first screenplay) and Tony McNamara (TV background) deliver biting dialogue and treacherous situations, and benefit from three staggeringly terrific lead actress performances. Olivia Colman stars as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah Churchill, and Emma Stone is Abigail. The three combine for one of the strangest and most convoluted love triangles and power struggles in history.
It's very early 18th century and Britain is at war with France. Queen Anne is frail and in ill health due to severe gout and who knows how many other ailments. Her erratic behavior and quick temper convey childlike behavior from an adult body with a crown. Lady Sarah (Winston's great-great grandmother, if I've calculated correctly) has strategically become the Queen's trusted political advisor and often governs in her stead, while also sharing moments of intimacy. Sarah pulls no punches and certainly doesn't subscribe to the 'kill 'em with kindness' approach, and instead frequently insults the Queen to her face. When Sarah's cousin Abigail appears after her family's fall from grace (her father lost her in a card game), Sarah takes pity on her due to Sarah's fondness of Abigail's father during her childhood.
Abigail's naivety and kindness soon win over the Queen's affections. Is her sweetness an act? Is it due to ambition or desperation ... is there even a difference here? We soon learn Abigail treats conniving as a profession - she views it as her only path back to respectability, and she's willing to take on many acts lacking in respectability to charm her way into the inner sanctum. We are plopped into the wicked fun, delicious cat-fighting, strategic backstabbing and crafty political and personal maneuverings ... right up until the story turns to vicious bleak darkness in the final act.
It's fascinating to watch three women hold the power during this era, as the noblemen are relegated to constantly playing catch-up (kind of like the real world) and struggling to figure out the rules of the game. Power struggles abound, as do director Lanthimos stylistic touches. Noblemen played by Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn are frequently dressed in frilly costumes, giant wigs and heavy make-up - quite the contrast to what we typically see in these period pieces. Other Lanthimos touches include royal duck races, pet bunnies representing deceased children, and fisheye lenses used from every conceivable angle.
Ms. Colman and Ms. Weisz were both in THE LOBSTER, and both have a knack for the Lanthimos style, and Ms. Stone surprisingly is also a natural with the twisted, vicious material. Each of the actresses have an extended close-up allowing them to show-off their immense and subtle talent ... Ms. Colman's is especially impactful. Extreme profanity (numerous c-words and f-words) is at times startling and effective, and the music is unique and diverse - as we would expect. As an added bonus, it requires little imagination to connect the dots to our contemporary political state, although that approach would likely stifle one's enjoyment of the film. Mr. Lanthimos has quickly reached the 'must-see' list of directors, with a guarantee that we are going to see something unusual and interesting. It's one of the year's best, even if it's not for everyone.
The dynamic chemistry between all three of the actresses and the engaging script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara is what keeps you hooked in this heightened period piece. From the beginning, Weisz, Stone and Colman portray their characters in one way that you would seem straightforward but by the end your view on them turns a complete 180. Weizs's confidence and dry wit makes her character Sarah feels like a force of nature you want to avoid crossing. By contrast Stone's charm and humour shows her character Abigail as appearing sweet and you wanting to root for. However, once the table turn in the game of manipulation and favouritism, Weisz display vulnerability in Sarah and Stone expands her dramatic chops to the reveal the dark trickster that hides behind Abigail's sweet smile. However the most fully ranged performance is that of Colman. While Queen Anne seems written to be as comic relief at first, Colman gets to put on show of emotional depth that by contrast makes her feel more human then the rest of the royal over-the-top characters we meet. Colman's comedic time definitely does earn most of the laughs in a very dark and twisted story. However it's through her emotional performance that gives the Favourite a sense of humanity that would otherwise be lacking.
Robbie Ryan's cinematography makes the Favourite visually stand apart from previous period piece dramas. The wide dynamic perspective shots make the character's interactions with each other feel like a you're removed from their presence because of their wealth and class status. The feeling of alienation from the shots is what helps it to sell its cold atmosphere. With close-ups of character's face the film then lets you get inside their heads to know where their minds and emotions are at in the moment. This then allows the story and its characters to be seen as being flawed but also honest and real.
Like Lathimos's previous films The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Favourite is a film that will leave feeling very cold and disturbed but is definitely joy to watch three amazingly talented actresses to perform with and against each other.