The Favourite may not be my favorite film, but it surely is at the top of my list due to some outstanding performances and some of the best production design I’ve seen all year.
England is at war with the French and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is too busy eating cake and tending to her rabbits to care. Queen Anne’s advisor, friend, and lover…Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), is the true authority behind the throne – no decision is made without her consent and influence. However, when Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the castle, only looking for employment of any kind, she finds herself very quickly in an opportunistic situation. Growing close to the Queen, Abigail finds herself in a vicious rivalry with Lady Sarah for being the Queen’s favorite.
What’s generating the film’s buzz the most is its three electric lead performances, and rightfully so. Each actress brings life to a complex individual who at times you take sides with and other times against. Olivia Colman is a total Queen of Hearts, Rachel Weisz is a force to be reckoned with, and Emma Stone is more scheming than ever. I haven’t seen a film so dominated by its actresses. But, that is not to discount Nicholas Hoult’s supporting work as the leader of the opposition party, Machiavellian politics personified.
While reflecting on this film, I have found myself comparing it to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread from earlier this year. Both films have tremendous performances, production design, costume design, a Wagnerian score, and yet are both slow burns which feel longer than they are. As much as I admired what both films were able to accomplish on the big screen, I couldn’t help but feel worn out by the end. The Favourite is a journey trapped in a palace. The situation from which you start is drastically different from the one you end at, but uncharacteristic for a journey, you don’t feel as if you’ve gone anywhere. The film ends leaving you wanting more, but you’re not sure if you can take much more. In certain areas, The Favourite crushes the competition and is the best by far I’ve seen all year. In terms of enjoyment, some scenes will strike you amusing but the picture as a whole is hard to consume.
I liked the first half of Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, but even if you did not enjoy that movie at all I believe you can still enjoy this one. The Favourite has a fiery script, some of the most eye-opening imagery of the year, and characters that appear to have come straight out of Shakespeare, you just have to be patient with this one. 8.5/10