Hot Take: Awesome cast. Wickedly funny film. Likely to land on more than a few Top 10 lists though it’s likely to settle in the Top 20 at Movie Hot Take.
Even if you don’t find deeper meaning in The Favourite, the latest from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer), it’s hard to imagine there won’t be plenty you find amusing. Thanks to incredible performances by a trio of amazing female performers (Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone and Olivia Colman), a sharp, witty script from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara and, of course, the watchful eye of Lanthimos whose resume continues to impress with each new film released, The Favourite will definitely make noise this Awards season and could walk away with some coveted hardware when all is said and done. Personally, there have been better films throughout the year but if you’ve included The Favourite in your Top 10, I would be hard-pressed to argue you out of such a decision. The balance of humor and nastiness is where The Favourite finds its magic and it never falters or leans too heavily on either to deliver an entertaining and sometimes even enlightening look at feminism. Despite its period setting, The Favourite‘s peak under the covers of feminism has a contemporary feel no matter how many bad powdered wigs or bosom-heaving corsets make their way into frame.
In 1708, Britain and France are at war. Queen Anne (Colman) has bequeathed most of her governing duties to her confidant and adviser Sarah Churchill (Weisz) who keeps Anne occupied with eccentric activities while feeding her directives on how to proceed in the management of her governmental duties. In poor health, Anne struggles with gout and relies on Sarah to take care of not only her interactions with major political allies and enemies but also her health. Along comes Abigail (Stone), Sarah’s poor younger cousin, looking for a way to a better life. Sarah throws her a bone by getting her a position as a scullery maid but after making a strong impression on the Queen (finding an herb to soothe the pain of her gout), Sarah makes Abigail her lady-in-waiting. As the trio’s activities become more intertwined, Anne enjoys pitting the two against each other and eventually uses Abigail to make Sarah jealous. Meanwhile, Abigail has plans of her own to insure she never returns to her impoverished past.
There is plenty about The Favourite that could be characterized as weird. However, one look at Lanthimos’ previous work and it actually feels a little more mundane. (All one has to do is take in The Lobster to fully understand this statement.) For Weisz, this is more consistency from someone who continues to have one strong performance after another. For Stone, it wouldn’t be surprising to see her earn an Academy Award nomination for her role which would make up for what many thought would have been a shoe-in last year as Billie Jean King in Battle of the Sexes. Colman might have done the most for herself of the three as she was primarily known for her television work before dazzling as the eccentric and turgid Queen.
There’s a feeling of re-watchability of the film that isn’t present in Lanthimos’ previous works. I could never see The Lobster again and be okay yet walking out of The Favourite, there was a compelling desire to turn around and sneak back in for another showing. This is especially impressive considering how off-the-wall and unsettling some of the scenes were. It’s rare to see a film set in the early 18th century yet somehow feel so contemporary and deliciously cruel at the same time. If you’re a fan of any of the performers or talent involved in the film or of comedies or period pieces, The Favourite is one that should make your “can’t miss” list for 2018.
Brilliant dialogue, delectable plot twists and a trio of women all worthy of debate come this season’s Academy Awards nominations.
Nothing blows up. (You Neanderthal!)