Yorgos Lanthimos movies are going to be polarizing. While The Favourite (2018) is the first film that he didn’t write, the subject matter of the film and his creative choices will likely not sit well with mass audiences. Fortunately for me, I’ve loved all of his movies – even the ones that were extremely uncomfortable, like Dogtooth (2009) – and this one is no different. There are aspects that clearly aren’t his style in this film, but the performances and presentation are so great that it’s an awesome experience.
The Favourite features three amazing performances from three amazing actresses.
The film follows a fictionalized true story of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her best friend and council, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), as they navigate the political world of the time during a war. Sarah has the ear of the Queen, and thus ultimately is running things the way she wants them to be – but finds her position threatened by an unlikely individual. Her distant cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) is given a job as a maid but winds up weaseling her way to the Queen’s side. The power struggle that ensues is complex and entertaining, as Lanthimos’s humorous style is employed time and time again.
There is so much to love in this film, but the three lead actresses are outstanding. Colman is the one I’m the least familiar with, but she gives an extremely impressive and memorable performance. She is all over the place when it comes to emotions, as there is an air of immaturity and dim-wittedness that is present early on that lends itself to some strong laughs. However, this same innocence becomes a tool for empathy, as revelations about her many losses have put her into a horrible depression worsened by her physical ailments. Colman’s portrayal of Queen Anne is complex and expressive – well deserving of a best actress nomination from any of the upcoming awards.
On the other hand, Weisz and Stone are two actresses whose careers I’ve followed with great appreciation. I’m a fan of many of their films and often cite Weisz as one of my favorite actresses. Despite my strong initial feelings for both of their careers, I think Stone gives her best performance to date in this film. She’s always been able to express a wide range through her facial expressions, but the subtlety in which she conveys her thoughts in The Favourite are some of the film’s biggest highlights. Not to undersell Weisz, though – the biting, sarcastic tone of her dialogue lands some of the biggest laughs in the film, but its the three working together that makes it all so enjoyable. They play off each other so well, and the chemistry between each completely sells the story.
While the three actresses dominate the screen in a big way, Nicholas Hoult still manages to give a memorable and comedic performance. He plays Harley, a member of the Whigs, who is in direct opposition with Sarah. The way he inserts himself in moments leads to some laugh-out-loud moments. For instance, the first time he decides to try and recruit Abigail to his side ends with him pushing her down a small hill. Again, the chemistry between the cast is so strong that practically every interaction feels real, in a heightened sort of way.
The Favourite is definitely living up to its name and is high on my 2018 list. The production design alone is worth discussing, though that’s not an area that often grabs my attention. In fact, Lanthimos has done something terrific here, as I often don’t like period pieces like this – but I love this one. The Favourite earns the Must See rating.