Yorgos Lanthimos is known for his surrealist sensibilities. Other hits like ‘The Lobster’ (2014) and ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ (2017) have shown his love for the bizarre and farcical. Here, he turns this twisted vision on the court of Queen Anne, and creates a hilarious political melodrama of power plays and jealousy.
‘The Favourite’ tells the story of two cousins, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, as they try and win the favour of Queen Anne, played spectacularly by Olivia Colman. Coleman’s portrayal is one of extravagance, crudeness and an almost childlike innocence that makes her temper tantrums even more entertaining to watch. She also shows a softer and more delicate side to the character as the film continues, with her 17 rabbits adding particular emotional weight.
Her two co-stars, Stone and Weisz, are equally entertaining, with Stone demanding particular attention. Emma Stone is an actress of very many talents, and here she puts many of them to great use. Her British accent is faultless, and her comic timing, both with dialogue and physical movements, are hilarious.
The story is a strange farce with elements of historical accuracy but moments that are surely fictional. It is true that sometimes the film gets a bit too strange for it’s own good, but this is a key part of all of Lanthimos’s films. The dialogue, however, is fantastically well written, with razor sharp wit, hilarious quips and delightfully crude sentences that, when said with posh English accents, adds much of the humour to the period drama.
The film brilliantly shows off the ridiculous wealth of the Court, populated by sex-driven maniacs who race ducks and (in one particularly demented scene) enjoy throwing fruit at a naked dancing fat man (played by an actor who was hilariously credited as “Nude Pomegranate Tory”). This extravagance is complimented by spectacular mono-chromatic costume design, adding a bold contrast to the dull browns and beiges of the court, and some fantastic cinematography by Robbie Ryan, who uses a wide variety of lenses to portray the various hidden events of the court. Most impressive is his use of the super-wide Fish Eye Lens, which stretches the empty edges of the screen, further demonstrating Queen Anne’s feeling of loneliness in her own court.
The final act of the film, it has to be said, does begin to drag a bit. Because the film never fully commits to comedy, the period drama parts don’t quite pay off as well as the funnier moments. As the political power plays continue to grow, there is only so far the film can go, and the narrative does grind to a halt quite suddenly and without warning. It would be preferable if there was a slightly more satisfying ending to the narrative, as it feels as though there is a little too much unresolved in the story.
With those negatives being said, The Favourite is still a wonderfully enjoyable historical farce. It’s very well made, the script is wittily written, and the performances are fantastic.