Yorgos Lanthimos does not do normal. What, at first glance, could seem like a standard costume drama about a long dead monarch, reveals itself to be a brilliant homoerotic satire with a script as sharp as Oscar Wilde. The Favourite is, without a doubt, one of the best films of 2018. The cast, the writing, the set design, the cinematography are all perfect. Not a moment of its 120-minute running time is wasted. The electric trio of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone all deserve Oscars. Lanthimos has created a new high-water mark for movies often referred to as “Oscar bait” by refusing to compromise the weirdness of his previous work, and instead letting it drive the film.
In the early 18th century, Queen Anne of England (Olivia Colman) finds her country at war with the French. Anne, frail and childlike, is just a figurehead for her parliament to use to justify their whims. Her closest confidant is Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). Sarah essentially runs the country while Anne has temper tantrums and plays with her rabbits. One day, Sarah’s cousin, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone, who will win the Oscar if there is justice in the world), arrives at the palace looking for employment. Sarah makes her a scullery maid, but Abigail doesn’t plan to stay in the palace’s kitchen for long. Abigail grows closer to Anne, hoping to secure a place in her court. Sarah catches on early, and attempts to put her down. Unfortunately, they are both helpless against the whims of their queen, who seems to be getting worse by the day.
A simple summary doesn’t do the film justice. The performances, especially Stone, are all knockouts. Even the male cast, mostly consisting of foppish dorks, ably hold their own against Colman/Weisz/Stone. Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn find ways to shine without taking the focus from the lead women, an admirable feat.
Though Queen Anne’s life was pitiable, The Favourite is anything but tragic. It is a wildly entertaining experience that will make you wish the film were four hours long. I could start listing the best comebacks, best use of fisheye lens, best everything, but the film must be seen to be believed. I’m looking forward to its many nominations and wins come Oscar Night 2019.
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos
Now playing everywhere (though the Hassle recommends the Coolidge, the Capitol, or your local mom & pop cineplex)