The Favourite

The Favourite ★★★★

Under normal circumstances I welcome any film that really challenges me to write something approaching intelligent about it. Although in my case maybe I should just aim for writing something intelligible.

But I'm not going to push my luck with The Favourite much beyond saying that I really liked it, albeit it with one or two question marks. Maybe it's because I reviewed a Yorgos Lanthimos just over a month ago and my brain hasn't quite resumed normal function as yet.

The performances are wonderful. I actually thought the standout here was Nicholas Hoult. In a film where all the men are humorously reduced to being completely useless and perfunctory (art imitating life), Hoult wrings out what little strength he's afforded with a splendid wit and comic timing, as well as a playful arrogance that makes me want to seek out more by him even if that might involve taking in some bad films. I don't know, I'm not hugely familiar with his work beyond Mad Max: Fury Road.

The plot is crafty - plainly critical of monarchy, all the while showing it to be impenetrable, no matter how foolproof the attempt may be to infiltrate it. Olivia Colman banishes Rachel Weisz seemingly through one of her temper tantrum whims and Emma Stone is left wondering what on Earth she's let herself in for and whether she had been better left on the streets. Royalty always wins over and there's nothing anybody can do about it.

The humour is more straightforward and less reliant on the sort of deliberately stiff performances that Lanthimos has used in all the films I've seen by him to date. I liked that though, because it showed me that he does have an ability to change things up and that he wasn't essentially a one-note director. The soundtrack is quite fantastic as well - I like unnerving twanging and would probably never get bored of it.

The concept of a central triple of characters, none of whom are clear antagonists, really appealed to me even if it would seem, on paper, to be a hard trick to pull off. Lanthimos pulls it off until he latterly falls into a trap that he avoids the whole of the rest of the time which I felt unbalanced things against Stone. The unnecessary scene where she harms one of Colman's rabbits was an unpleasant sight but one that stamps 'VILLAIN' on her when it wasn't necessary.

I'm not sure why he felt the need to do this. Everything involving Stone, Colman and Weisz had been so subtle to that point, with the power-plays creating one of the most unpredictable but thrilling 'three's a crowd' scenarios I've perhaps ever watched. This is him playing a hand that he didn't need to play, and it did lessen the overall effect of it all in my eyes.

Despite really liking three out of the four films I've seen by him so far, I'm still a bit sceptical about Lanthimos from one film to the next, but maybe that's a good thing. Hopefully he'll keep surprising me with his lunatic black comedies, and The Favourite proved to me that he could move away from his most comfortable territories.

Great duck content, too.

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🇵🇱 Steve G liked these reviews