- It’s become increasingly easy to be blasé whenever an actor plays royalty, a challenge that often comes saddled with expectations of Judi Dench or Helen Mirren-like distinction. But it’s the performance that Olivia Coleman gives as Queen Anne that obliterates your assumptions. A regal figurehead one minute and a wailing, helpless child the next, it’s Coleman’s Queen Anne that is at all times the aching human centerpiece of this splendidly wicked and darkly hilarious film. But it’s Coleman’s shimmering jewel-like eyes, that open the windows into the deep, unendurable heartache of her past that connects us to her. But if it’s Queen Anne that earns the audiences full sympathy, she is hardly the only one to root for in a film whose title immediately establishes a sense of competition. Coleman, rather than sucking all the oxygen out of the room, sets a tempo for the similarly fantastic work from Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, the other two sides in the films vividly sadistic and intricately emotional triangle. And as one of the outside pawns of the triangle, Nicholas Hoult turns in his most smarmily witty performance as Robert Harley. And it’s all together as they create the finest ensemble performance of the year.
- Leave it to Yorgos Lanthimos to succeed in turning a Hollywood prestige period-drama into a vessel of his own bold idiosyncratic style. As he continues to play in his own vein of Kubrick, as if The Killing of a Sacred Deer was his ode to The Shining, then The Favourite cannot but be his ode to Barry Lyndon. Lanthimos’ past filmography was much like a juncture of deadpan comedy, dystopian horror and speculative fiction. And much like his previous films, The Favourite often plays like an elaborate social experiment. Which can come with much help from Lanthimos’ brilliant sense of and use of space in the film. With the gapingly large palace rooms, Lanthimos opposes them with extreme wide-angle lenses and even fish-eye lenses, seamlessly trying to lose our characters in the immense space, where only their cruelty can swirl a bout. And in his demented sociologist ways, Lanthimos takes a hystericaly dim view of royal amusements on display, whether it’s a palace duck race or a nude man being pelted with pomegranates in a kind of paintball-like game, Lanthimos takes the environment all in, in such a way that only he can. But as we cascade through the films simmering triangle, it’s Lanthimos’ off-kilter unpredictableness that brings forth a cruelly juicy, political satire about the excess, pettiness, and complete lack of skill from leaders in society.
- The Favourite marks the first time Yorgos Lanthimos has no writing credit on a film he has directed, and well it turned out just fine, as the screenplay from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara is stellar. The screenplay delivers a political subtext that comes off depressingly timely, but as well juxtaposes it with sharp dialogue, that is both deliciously mean and darkly comedic. It’s a screenplay that is carefully researched but loosely fictionalized, that delivers such a vibrantly potent trio of characters that gloriously shine through every frame and every line of dialogue.
- The two staples of Robbie Ryan cinematography are natural light and distinctly vibrant camera movement, and The Favourite continues those staples. It’s his use of natural candle and fire light that capture an arrangement of period beauty. Ryan brilliantly visualizes the sense of flux as he sends us hurtling from one end of the queen’s chamber to the other. The camera is forever in motion, stalking each side of the three sides of the triangle.
- The production design by Fiona Crombie is exquisite, as it lavishes in beauty for each room of the palace. The costume design as well from Sandy Powell delivers distinctly unique costumes, pushing the film to never feel merely sumptuous.
- The editing by Yorgos Mavropsaridis is glorious in its many dissolve cuts and unique L cuts. But it’s the films ending where Mavropsaridis’ editing shines in a true galore of cross dissolves that bring the film to an almost haunting conclusion.
- There is one focal character that is just a little underdeveloped.