The Favourite

The Favourite ★★★★

Before I say anything about Yorgos Lanthimos' most recent film, The Favourite, I want to make one thing clear. The rating I'm giving might look high to some of you. But, as I've felt with all the other 2018 releases that I've given four starts out of five (or an 8/10), I could as easily have given this a half star lower. On one hand, I find this film to be Lanthimos' weakest. On the other, it is also the one that has the most personality of its own. I do think this film is great, but I was also a bit underwhelmed by the end of it.

For starters, the acting is superb. Olivia Colman as Queen Anne completely sweeps everyone off of their feet with her childish facade, that is hiding a manipulative side to her which gave her a surprising intimidation factor. There was definitely a lot of joy to get out of Colman's seemingly unaware puppetmaster. The cousin rivalry between Abigail (Emma Stone) and Sarah (Rachel Weisz) was another delightful thing to follow, as their character arcs mostly revolved around both of them assuming their counterpart's role in the royal power play unfolding before us. Also, let's not forget Nicholas Hoult's hilarious over-the-top performance, which sparked some mean-spirited levity to the plot's proceedings. The score should also be highlighted here. It might not have taken up much space, but it was used brilliantly to build up tension and enhance the dramatic developments during the film's runtime. The gorgeous costume and production design is also worth mentioning, as they helped to create a great contrast to the chaos ensuing at the Queen's residence, with proto-disco dancing, cute rabbits and lobster races (I see what you did there, Yorgos!) being just few examples of the eccentric pastime events occurring in this unrestrained period piece.

The aspects of the film that make me consider rating it lower are, oddly enough, about the direction. Lanthimos sure gets the best out of his usual deadpan, absurdist comedy here, which has become one of his trademarks. But, I was honestly not that invested in the story or the politics that provided the backdrop for the ensuing power plays. I felt I had no reason to care about whether it would be Abigail or Sara who won the honor of becoming the Queen's favorite. I did find it a bit confusing that I liked the atmosphere and characters as much as I did, when the story barely had a presence for me. Another thing that bugged me was the overuse of fish-eye lenses. I know that Lanthimos wants to show us the pressure that power, corruption and lies put on our characters, but was it really necessary to use the fish-eye lens about four times during each act? They definitely lost their effect on me, as the film progressed. The cinematography here was something I did find a bit bland. It was the production and costume design, more than the camerawork, that made the film stand visually out. I can't point to one frame I can count as memorable, as I could with the previous Lanthimos films I've seen.

In conclusion, The Favourite is a film I'm rather conflicted about, despite liking the film a lot overall. I recommend primarily for the acting, design and eerie atmosphere. I could definitely tell that this was not written by Yorgos Lanthimos himself, along with Efthimis Filippou. A fact that ended up being to the film's detriment in my opinion.

Patrick liked these reviews