Seth’s review published on Letterboxd:
One year after The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos ventures into a starkly different terrain with a costume dramedy set in the early 18th century in royal Britain. This is also the first film the man didn't write himself.
Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, The Favourite zooms in on three real-life characters: Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), her best friend and right hand Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Lady Sarah's cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone). "Abigail was once a lady, now a nothing." She was thrown into poverty by an alcoholic and gambling father. Abigail shows up to court covered in mud to beg her cousin for a job. Lady Sarah (who Weisz plays so ruthlessly cool, she deserves all the awards that are coming for her) sends Abigail to work in the palace's kitchen, from which she is quickly relieved after successfully winning over Queen Anne with her charms. This is when she starts threatening Lady Sarah's spot as the Queen's best friend and lover.
Over eight chapters, Lanthimos captures completely delusional displays of royal over-the-top activities, from ducks racing around the palace to grand ballroom parties (in which there's a breakdance-like routine between Weisz and Abigail's suitor, Masham (Joe Alwyn)), which are a few of the many memorable scenes The Favourite delivers to us on a platter.
Majestically portrayed by Netflix's future Queen Elizabeth II Olivia Colman, Queen Anne stands out as an insecure monarch. She is so easily manipulated by the two women on whom she relies. Despite seventeen pregnancies, in real life she died with no surviving children. But in Lanthimos' universe, she mourns their deaths spending hours playing and cuddling with seventeen pet rabbits.
Lanthimos treats Anne's sexual urges as a cannibalistic desire, the Queen biting on Lady Sarah's knuckles. It's not necessarily a LGBTQ drama though. Their romance is an important chess piece in the calculated game Abigail (to return to her aristocratic roots) and Lady Sarah (to hold the government and household together) like to play with Queen Anne. Meanwhile, the Queen sinks deeper into madness and paranoia.
The Favourite is a joy for your eyes. Mainly because of costume design and production (Sandy Powell and Fiona Crombie respectively). Robbie Ryan uses fisheye lenses to capture some incredible interiors and experiments with camera spins. His cinematography is to feast upon. The Favourite is a spunky bitchy witty story about three powerful women with overflowing personalities that make their male counterparts sink into the mud.