Edition 28 December 2019, by James Luxford
Since his startling breakthrough nearly a decade ago with Dogtooth, director Yorgos Lanthimos has built a reputation for unique, almost surreal dramas with incredible casts – fi lms such as The Lobster and The Killing of A Sacred Deer. The Greek fi lm maker teams up with the star of the former fi lm, Rachel Weisz, for darkly hilarious period fi lm The Favourite.
Emma Stone takes the lead as Abigail, a young lady who has fallen on hard times and arrives at the court of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in search of employment from her cousin (Weisz), the close advisor to The Queen. Once there, a deadly game of deception arises between the two women for The Queen’s affections, with Abigail determined to do all she can to become the new favourite.
Filmed in stunning locations with ornate fittings and costumes, everything about the fi lm feels like an authentic costume drama, but with a wonderfully subversive twist. Everything from the acerbic insults to an incredibly funny dance scene sets this apart as a different kind of costume piece, aided by spot-on comic timing from the three female leads and an interesting direction from Lanthimos.
Stone, the only non-Brit in the cast, takes great care with both her accent and her acting to remind the audience how good the Oscar winner is at comedy. So much of what makes her hilarious is in little moments or looks that don’t contain any dialogue, but still manage to draw a laugh. Weisz herself shines as her ‘frenemy’ – a controlling, self-absorbed aristocrat who bends entire governments to her will and abuses her power on an almost hourly basis. The true jewel in the crown, however, is Colman. Her Queen Anne is perpetually unwell, insecure and self-indulgent. She’s also attracted to women – a fact exploited by both parties and woven cleverly into the plot in a way that doesn’t seem forced. It’s a unique, comedydriven performance that is sure to get her much deserved award attention.
Both visually and intellectually, The Favourite is Lanthimos’ fi lm making triumph. Stripped of a lot of the shock value that divided audiences in his previous fi lms, we’re left with the best of his artistry, matched with the kind of on-screen talent that almost guarantees success. Even in a year packed with strong Oscar contenders, The Favourite will surely live up to its name