Aida Vucic | 3/01/2018
It’s unsurprising that The Favourite is a favourite in the upcoming awards season.
While historical characters may provide the films underpinnings, the story diverges quickly from any fathom of accurate retelling of events. Instead, director Yorgos Lanthimos focuses on the controversial relationship between three women; Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), Lady Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone). The Queen appears less than equipped to oversee the affairs of the nation, but she is assisted by her loyal and manipulative confidant Lady Sarah. Lady Sarah has the Queen's ear whilst simultaneously stroking the loins of the monarch.
Abigail is Sarah's cousin and was once a lady herself, however due to her father’s gambling antics has lost everything with the exception of her intellect. Sarah takes mercy on Abigail and offers her work within the castle. Thus ensues Abigail's calculating plot to rise up the ranks of royal society. Both women employ their best sly sexual and emotional trickery to compete for the affections of the monarch and gain the power they so desire.
Interjected in the background are the antics of the court, whose behaviour is equally debaucherous. The men who claim to be the monarch’s advisors are more preoccupied in duck racing or throwing rotten fruit at naked people then running the kingdom.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ previous works include the likes of The Lobster and The Killing of a Scared Deer, and he is known for his less than conventional, if not slightly off-putting, style. The Favourite is more palatable than Lanthimos’ other work, but it still maintains his unique style. This is only amplified by cinematographer Robbie Ryan who skilfully incorporates the use of fisheye lens to generate a sense of the bizarre ridiculousness of the royal court.
Much of the film’s success should be bestowed to its three leadings ladies. Colman and Weisz are Lanthimos veterans, having both been in The Lobster, and they seem at ease in their roles. Stone, the newcomer to the team, delivers yet another exceptional performance. Alas, whether it is her relative youth or the inevitable comparison with her costars, her portrayal of Abigail does tend to feel rather contrived, which is unfortunate.
A well executed, entertaining dark comedy, which plainly and unapologetically depicts the unquenchable thirst for power and its conflict with love.