The Favourite (2019)

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Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone

Review Author: Tony

Yorgos Lanthimos has a great track record of bewildering audiences with his unapologetic absurdist style. His films are usually a reflection of social issues displayed through pitch dark humour that leaves viewers either shocked, confused or in hysterics of laughter.  It’s rare to see such a unique and uncompromising vision flourish but Lanthimos is on a trajectory to larger success with the multitude of awards he’s been nominated for and in many cases, won. He’s collaborated with Irish studios enough for us to now claim him as an honorary Irishman.

Set in the early 18th century, Queen Anne shows increasing less interest in running her own nation and instead spends her time on outlandish activities such as duck racing. With her health deteriorating and an ongoing battle with France has political rivals attempting to sway the Queen’s favour. Sarah Churchill, the Queen’s confidante and secret lover, rules the kingdom efficiently on behalf of the Queen. This balance is soon disrupted by the arrival of Abigail Hill, a cousin of Churchill who has fallen from grace. Abigail begins to win over the Queen’s approval which threatens Sarah’s standing in the manor.

Our three leading ladies are the true stars of the film with all their own defining flaws and claws to undermine each other and make sure none can experience actual happiness. Coleman is priceless as the childish, grief-stricken monarch who is not quite as clueless as others see her but allows for the scheming machinations of others if not for the sense of being played for as a prize. Weisz is a commanding presence as she shuffles her weight around and meets her rivals head-on. Stone is the real challenge as her innocence hides a vicious cunning as she plays the role of a cuckoo chick.

While it’s devilishly funny it doesn’t quite have the bite of Lanthimos previous films. It’s certainly more accessible to wider audiences and critics but it does retain plenty of sharp writing and bizarre sequences. The costume design is incredible as well as the sets and the hideous but hypnotic decor on the walls which you never quite come accustomed to despite spending the vast majority of the film in the Royal bedroom (to cleverly reflect Anne’s shut-in nature).

While lacking the absurdity and shock factor of Lanthimos’ previous films, The Favourite is sharply written, wickedly funny and a true showcase for the three central actresses. It’s shot in a cold, matter of fact style that bends and twists to capture moments of absurdity and anguish while accompanied by a sporadic soundtrack utilizing harsh and sudden strings (a Lanthimos motif no doubt) that creates a sense of unease. It’s a wonderful parody of British period drama with a dynamic power rift at its core.

Rating: 4 / 5 Prize-winning Ducks

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