Rocky Ibarra 🎃’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Imagine The Wolf of Wall Street set in 18th-century England. Everyone is a leech in this magnificently-crafted film, everyone tries to work their way up. There are wars going outside but we particularly focus on the one inside where three major stars in the business deliver their best performances, possibly (As for Colman, it is certain, as she won her Oscar). With the clever script and performances of the highest quality, The Favourite is irrefutably among its year’s finest.
The film is quite comparable to Scorsese’s late masterpiece not just because of the excess which is apparent, but the sheer ignorance of these people to avoid responsibilities in confronting real-world problems that also contribute to world-building of this absurd period in history. Instead of the careful planning of what to do with the countryside war, these entitled people bet on duck races, wonder at tedious dances and derive extreme pleasure in throwing rotten fruit. This is life inside poor Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) palace where they have obsessions about rank and indulge in it. They prioritize their positions more than the reality occurring outside and it would make perfect sense considering that they are locked away from any groundedness--for the lack of a better term--that the world has. They are secured in terms of status, thus the next step is to level the queen or better, manipulate her.
This happens to be the case for the focal point of the separate and uniting dynamics in the film and so it can also be about the clash of ins and outs, internal and external, of how each can influence the other through charm and deception, etcetera. While The Favourite is immediate and unashamed of its interest for world-building, that aspect remains secondary to the two main characters who are packed with complexities and individuality as their own strong feminine figure. Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone) may not have made the correct decisions as the film progressed into something brilliant nor are they the kindest but there’s a lot to take into consideration: both are filled with wit, independent, competitive and occasionally empathetic.
For the most part though, their codes are far from righteous for when chances come at the right time, goals from a place of compassion shift to opportunism. But it mustn't be doubted that it is a feminist movie. It is, in a sense, because besides ethics in the world of the film, these characters are written like how men are treated in an all-male movie. They choose to strive to achieve their goals no matter the cost and sidetrack whoever compromises. More importantly, they’re not ‘objects of desire’ unlike many feminine people in period pieces or even in almost anything that comes out today that makes The Favourite quite refreshing when it comes to sociopolitical commentary.
Yorgos Lanthimos is a very good director and can make his following features uniform and unfailing; he never departs from the off-kilter vibes. It feels as if the characters and the systems within those worlds live in a single universe. Despite not joining the writing, Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara managed to replicate the kind of humor Lanthimos would employ in darker-themed films, however, the wooden sound of dialogue is replaced with elegance and memorable one-liners.
Colman, Stone, Weisz and Hoult’s performances are all spectacular, Colman especially. Costumes in period pieces usually feature a variation of colors but in this one, black is dominant and it meshes well with the lighting, bringing out that sort of punk, gothic aesthetic. The cinematography by Robbie Ryan extends the idea of isolation but if I would like to point out a thing that bothered me a little, it is the out-of-control use of fisheye lens. The Favourite is stylish, taking a few liberties here and there though not as indulgent as many of the gentlemen of the film.
Check out my ten best movies of the year list (2018) to see where The Favourite is.