Earlier this year it was announced that Olivia Colman would be taking over the monarchical reins from Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown, but what did go under some radars was the fact that she would also be playing another British royal, although this ruler is one of a very different ilk.
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos already has a repertoire to be proud of, including his latest hits The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer; but now he can add yet another to his lists of triumphs – the period-costume drama The Favourite, featuring a star-studded cast including Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult to name only a few. This is an alternative history lesson that invests in themes of love, betrayal, grief and political angst, whilst also leaving viewers tickled to the core with its smothering of dark comedy.
War is raging oversees between England and France but, at home, life could not be any different for Queen Anne (Colman), who, although finding herself in poor health with a case of gout, could not be more oblivious to the political unrest boiling across the country thanks to the relentless doting from her favourite, Lady Sarah Marlborough (Weisz). However, the palace experiences a civil war of its own when Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Stone) arrives as a fallen lady looking to restore her own social standing by befriending the Queen, thereby ousting Sarah, who is also using the unstable monarch for her own husband’s gain in winning the war. What ensues is a fierce triangle of desire, intellectual manipulation and sexual exploitation as the three powerful women lock horns in an electrifying game of social chicanery.
Taking inspiration from the same story as the theatre production Queen Anne, Lanthimos’s latest work does not disappoint. This is primarily down to the wonderful costume and set design that will surely receive a number of nominations come awards season. The period piece is scrupulous in its attention to even the smallest, most intricate of details, manifesting a fabulous canvas upon which the story can conduct itself.
It is the casting that makes The Favourite such an entertaining vision to behold, with each and every member outdoing themselves and fully personifying the writing. The onscreen chemistry between the main female trio is nothing short of exhilarating. Olivia Colman proves yet again what a brilliant and dynamic actress she is, blessing almost every scene with a different persona for the cantankerous monarch. Emma Stone gives an excellent performance as the “go getter” Abigail, whilst also possessing an English accent so perfect one could forget that she isn’t British at all, and when nose to nose with the impregnable Weisz, the two create sparks that light up this movie into a riveting comedic drama.
Each scene is direct, with fast-paced dialogue that carries the film through from start to finish with conviction and an affirmed belief that it knows what it is doing. The cinematography is extremely powerful yet experimental, using tasty wide-angled fish-eye lenses that often display the entirety of vast, long corridors and bedrooms. The lighting focuses on the aesthetic of authority, creating looming and ultimately absorbing shots that swallow the audience in moments of sheer awe. Each chapter also pushes the layout of titles to the extreme, showing that this comedic film is nothing but experimental – but it undoubtedly succeeds and to absurdly tremendous, classical effect! Brilliantly bizarre.
The Favourite is released nationwide on 1st January 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Favourite here: