Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
Those already familiar with Yorgos Lanthimos will feel right at home with The Favourite- his latest achievement and possibly his best film to date. Everyone else should at least do themselves the courtesy of watching The Lobster and maybe The Killing of a Sacred Deer (preferably in that order) to become more acquainted with his fast-paced, deadpan style of dialogue that has become his trademark in his English language films. The Favourite is what I might describe as the zenith of his powers. It's very much a Lanthimos film to its core- from its overpowering baroque-style orchestral soundtrack to the utterly confounding fisheye lens angles that give a sense of peculiarity to its cinematography. Andersonian centered shots even pop up from time to time, albeit far less frequently than the aforementioned director's trademark style is utilized. This is everything I would have expected from a Yorgos Lanthimos film, yet so wildly different from anything he's done yet- his career's unpredictability makes me all the more excited to see what his next endeavor is going to be.
The Favourite is a lavish and extravagant period piece that also ends up being totally irreverent and like nothing I've ever seen before. It's almost a deconstruction- maybe even a downright parody- of the other 18th century British period dramas that your mother and grandmother watch on the television every Sunday night. Lanthimos takes an extreme amount of liberty with mixing fact and fiction in his drama about the rivalry between Sarah Churchill and Abigail Hill- two distant cousins who constantly find themselves vying for the attention and indeed romantic affection of the Queen. A smart and stylish script from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara finds itself in the capable hands of Lanthimos, who makes the story all his own. It's very much a dialogue-driven drama, peppered with moments of comedy that are exactly as they would be expected from Yorgos, but somehow his almost inhuman approach to dry line delivery feels completely at home in the prim and proper world of British royalty.
Boiling in the background are the very real politics of Queen Anne's clash with the French during the War of the Spanish Succession, which adds a welcome touch of realism to an otherwise outlandish tale that will infuriate historical junkies and fascinate many more. Its ending is perhaps one of the most perplexing and terrifyingly beautiful moments I've seen in any film this year- a moment of clarity that keys into the miserable reality that these characters find themselves dragged into- or out of- one way or another. No one is ever strictly happy in a Lanthimos picture, and The Favourite is definitely no exception. Beneath its cynical and biting humor lie damaged personas and psyches- dangerous lusts for power that occasionally dip into the lusts of a sexual nature.
It's not often that I find myself eager to revisit a film so soon, but The Favourite is so eccentric and enjoyable that I immediately found myself wanting to dive back into its outlandish styles and surroundings again. I imagine I'll find myself taking a few more trips to see this one- probably on my own, but that's to the benefit of those whom I would normally drag to see these kinds of things. I would firmly believe that it's a film that many people should see (especially if you're into these historical dramas), but anyone who hasn't seen a Lanthimos film before will probably come out angry or just downright confused as to what they just witnessed. It's one of the very best films of the year, and one that I only expect to gain more and more favour in my eyes as I pour on about this splendid film until I'm blue in the face. It's perhaps the very best film that Lanthimos has made- one that could surpass even The Lobster as an indescribable cinematic experience.