The Favourite review – An Absurd, Rousing and Tragic Joy

The new film from Yorgos Lanthimos is brilliant in all of it’s absurdity, in this 18th century English black comedy branching far away from the traditional royal period dramas. Exploring the connection between the main three characters who play a twisted game of power. Lanthimos’ take on a documented period from the outside world delves into the inner workings of the bizarre life of Queen Anne.  

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Loosely based on the true story of Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham who compete for the favour of the Queen. As tensions rise in the world of politics and war it is paralleled by the bizarre love triangle as the grasp for power slips and rises with sides winning and losing. 

Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone) fight for the hand of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) with twisted plotting as Abigail attempts to regain her courtly status arriving covered in mud perhaps as an animal for the children to play with. In contrast to Sarah’s devotion and love for the Queen which is overshadowed by her impending opponent Abigail, who with less loving intent gains the favour of the Queen and there on the battle is a go. 

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The Favourite is an excellent showcase for the three incredible performances. Colman brings charm, comedy and drama in her very non-subtle flamboyant performance. Stone’s performance beautifully rifts from a loving servant to a masterful manipulator in Abigail. Weisz brings a razor-sharp performance in her loyal but cunning nature as Sarah, who is in for a rollercoaster of bizarre situations. All three performers are major contenders for their respective categories, being the core of what helps bring Lanthimos’ strange but alluring vision to life. 

Backed by the comical-bawdy script from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, with the sharp witty dialogue and the rather experimental cinematography from Robbie Ryan creates a nightmare-like distorted vision of the world that works incredibly well with the contorted actions and eccentric interactions of the characters. Adding to the visual flair with the ravishingly beautiful production design that creates a luxury-like feel to every crevasse of the frames.  

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Lanthimos employs whip pans, fisheye lenses and a showy narrative structure in this self-knowing illustration of a vision of royal life. However, there is a greater and more emotional depth behind Queen Anne especially with the complex exploration of her mind and manner that in the end is quite heart-shattering. The film is precise in tone and style with a continued build up of chaos, exploring the arrogance of particular men – who yearn for a girl’s heart, but also the handling of power and emotional manipulation in this elegant-yet-tragic piece of cinema.  

With an absurdly hilarious dance sequence, a lovers continued failing chase for Abigail and the dragging of a royal by horse – The Favourite delivers a sense of confidence from the very start, as Lanthimos controls the spectator’s emotions with a balance of tragedy and wit in this rousing curve of supposed history.  

5/5 Stars 

Ben Rolph 

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