The Favourite (2018)

The Favourite is a costume play and a quirky historical drama (in some places it is also claimed to be a comedy) set in England in the early 18th century. The story, written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, is loosely based on historical events. Two manipulative women, Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone), fight for the position as the favourite at the court of the physically and mentally unstable Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Our perception of who is the most obnoxious bitch may be subject to some fluctuation.

The Favourite is clever in dealing with its themes, its symbolism and the socially induced motivations of its characters. However, like so many contemporary films, it succeeds only to a limited extent in integrating this into an appealing narration. The manipulative approaches generate little tension and the resulting consequences are long in coming. The foreign policy issues surrounding the ongoing war with France are just as marginal as all the male characters. In fact, the traditional gender roles and even their appearances from classic Hollywood films are completely turned upside down. This surely brings a certain statement with it and may bring some kind of satisfaction to one or the other, but doesn’t foster the narrative of the film.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos stages the obscesses at court in a highly stylized manner. Basically, the scenes are filmed very wide, so that the surroundings of the characters are always captured, and seem distanced, uninvolved, sometimes like a surveillance camera of a prison. However, many scenes also contain arbitrary fisheye shots, distorted camera perspectives, super slow motion in particularly outrageous moments of courtly conduct and an irritatingly booming soundtrack of classical music that is deliberately used awkwardly. Lanthimos depicts the absurdity at court in an absurd way – a little inspiring concept.

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Genre: Drama
Rated: R
Runtime: 120 min.
Release Date: 2018/08/30 (at Venice)
Screenplay: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
Editor: Yorgos Mavropsaridis
Cinematography: Robbie Ryan
Budget: $15 million