Let’s eat cake until we puke.
If you’ve turned on your television in the past month you have heard praise about the favorite being shouted at you over trailers that show very little about the actual movie. With Yorgos Lanthimos behind the camera, I was quite excited to see this one.
The Favourite is at its core about Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her two subjects Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail (Emma Stone) fighting for her affection and attention. The film begins with a literally shit-covered Abigail coming and begging for work from her distant cousin Sarah. Once given employment, the two compete for who will ultimately attain more sway with the queen.
However, this is a Lanthimos film, so be prepared for hilarious dancing, duck racing, great shots, over-eating, great costumes, weird dialogue, and a sharp artistic eye in every scene. The film looks amazing, and each of the actresses does a fantastic job in their specific roles.
Lanthimos stated that was his most accessible film, and I think that is a problem. His previous films, The Lobster, Alps, and Dogtooth are wholly original works. Each showcases a different dark side of humanity, and each had his same artistic excellent piercing through each scene. Even The Killing of a Sacred Deer would be unfamiliar for most (and is certainly filmed as something outside of the mainstream). This is the first time I think his newest film doesn’t improve on his earlier works. In a weird way, this makes The Favourite my least favorite (pun intended) of his films.
While the acting and design is fantastic, and we do have flashes of razor-sharp wit, the whole thing bogs down into familiar territory with Abigail and Sarah out-doing each other. Neither of them are sympathetic, and while this could be a statement on people in positions of power, it didn’t make for the most enthralling watch. Once you see the arc of the film you will be able to more or less predict the landing, and this is a problem when the other films from this artist are so unique.
Queen Anne is perhaps the most sympathetic character, and Olivia Colman owns every scene she is in. We get a strong commentary on the aloofness of royalty, but also the power of information, and the weakness of isolation from information. When the film works it works quite well, but we end up with a lot of relatively empty moments between flashes of brilliance.
I am not sure I liked the film, despite recognizing how well made it is. I wanted to love it, and perhaps my own expectations damned me from appreciating this as a stand-alone feature. There is a lot to enjoy, even if the sum of strong parts doesn’t add to a satisfying whole.
I’m in the minority here, but if you enjoyed this one, give Lanthimos’ earlier catalogue a look.