By Adam Ray Palmer
This movie was one of my picks for the festival beforehand, largely down to two talents. One being the director Yorgos Lanthimos and the other being a favourite actress of mine, Emma Stone.
Joining Stone on the bill is; Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Olivia Colman, Joe Alwyn and Mark Gatiss.
In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne (Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) governs the country in her stead. When a new servant Abigail (Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.
That snapshot synopsis does not do this movie justice. Whilst on the surface that’s what The Favourite is about, it’s also drenched in themes of blackmail, treachery, lust and some random duck-racing fun. See, now I have your attention!
Yorgos Lanthimos is back with his third English-language film in four years (after The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer). This time, he anchors the movie with a trifecta of female talents in Colman, Stone and Weisz. All three are simply magnificent. They are that good that they’ll probably be fighting it out for a golden statuette next Spring.
Colman’s steely Queen Anne is overly-aggressive on the exterior, but in reality, she’s quite playful and surprisingly harmless. It’s her friend and ‘decision-maker’ Lady Sarah Marlborough (Weisz) who is the brutal, cold and cunning character who will stop at nothing to get what she wants, including potentially killing her husband.
However, when the unknowing yet promiscuous Abigail (stone) turns up to be a servant at the grounds, things begin to change. Abigail and Sarah go head-to-head for the Queen’s affection, baiting each other physically and mentally. They have secrets on each other, just waiting to expose them. Stone and Weisz also go head-to-head in the acting department too, they to-and-fro with quips at such speed and venom from a razor-sharp script; a comedy sketch show would be proud of the delivery.
A mention must extend to the infectious duo of Harley (Nicholas Hoult) and Samuel (Joe Alwyn). Both supporting actors add hilarious comic sequences to break up the darker themes throughout. Hoult bounces off Stone extremely well in their limited screen time as he certainly makes the most of his minutes. Nicholas is a highlight for me here.
The brilliance doesn’t stop with the acting either; Lanthimos’ shot-calling is elegant and royal-like as the camera gently sweeps across the screen like the characters’ hushed secrets metamorphically tip-toeing down the stately home’s murky corridors. Yorgos’ use of a 360 camera is also a pleasant welcome as we get the full effect of a huge estate drawing room. He spins the 360 camera so subtly that it feels like your own presence is in the room like we are bystanders in the events. Komeil S. Hosseini’s score is also terribly haunting. The scenes with a sharp violin playing what I can only describe as a posh, drawn out, Jaws-like theme tune; are pulse-bulgingly tense.
The Favourite is certainly a favourite here, and I think it will still be come award season too. There’s hardly a dull moment and bum note throughout, and I can’t wait to see it again next year.
Cineroom’s Rating: 4.5 stars
The Favourite is set to be released in the UK on 1st January 2019 – certificate 18