As it turns out, I’m capable of much unpleasantness.
I’ve been a big fan of Lanthimos for years now; his films always have a kind of dreamlike surreality to them but their weirdness is in service of a mood, a mood quite particular, and the emotions he evokes are real, even if the situations are strange or fantastic. With The Favourite, he’s finally being recognized by a larger audience and I’m very glad. But this isn’t a case of a director selling out; The Favourite has Lanthimos’ typical off-beat sensibilities in spades. There’s a more staid, traditional period piece somewhere in this story of Abigail Masham and Sarah Churchill vying for the favo(u)r of the erratic Queen Anne, but neither Lanthimos nor screenwriter Deborah Davis, who’s been shopping this script around for more than a decade, are in the least interested in this version of the story. The off-beat dialogue and the off-beat visuals are a perfect marriage and Lanthimos & Davis are lucky to have creatively found each other for this project.
And, of course, there are the performances. Olivia Colman is a revelation even if you’re, as I was, already a fan. It’s a full throttle performance that evokes laughter, revulsion and empathy in the audience. Rachel Weisz is perhaps career best as the merciless Lady Sarah and Emma Stone is equally brilliant as the conniving Abigail. This trio of performance is the best female ensemble I’ve seen in ages, I think; they’re all brilliant in their own way and their chemistry elevates their already excellent performances. Nicholas Hoult is a wonder as a foppish politician and Joe Alwyn is quite good as well in a small supporting role.
All things considered, this movie really is just marvelous. It’s kind of amazing just how breathlessly entertaining this is; it’s full of laughs, gasps, thrills and maybe even a couple of tears here and there. This isn’t classical moviemaking by a stretch, but it has one thing in common with some of those old classics: it aims to provide entertainment in every area – there’s even a (truly delightful) dance sequence. The Favourite is aptly named; it’s a serious contender for being exactly that of 2018 cinema. The Favourite is grand entertainment. 4 stars.
tl;dr – a trio of astoundingly great lead performances, a weird, persnickety script and Lanthimos’ visionary direction all create cinema at its most striking; a grand entertainment. 4 stars.