The Favourite (2018)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Writers: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara
Actors: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Yorgos, oh Yorgos. I was an idiot for ignoring you the past couple of years. I had many chances to check out some of your movies on release but for some reason I never felt compelled to watch any. End of 2018 my friend insisted I watch The Lobster. It had always been on my watchlist, so I thought why not. I remember watching it and going through a roller coaster of emotions. I laughed, cringed, and said “what the fuck” out loud so many times I lost count. It was a trip, and I knew this guy was talented. So when I saw he was making a new film for 2018, and that it was critically acclaimed, I was excited. It took time until I could get a hold of it, but I finally watched it. I think moving forward I need to put a counter with how many times I say “What the fuck” during a Yorgos film.
This film is a masterclass of skill. Although I have only seen The Lobster, I could see the similarities and managed to pinpoint his style. Although, I could tell that The Favourite is more accessible compared to The Lobster, don’t know how it fairs in comparison with his other films. Nevertheless, it being accessible is not a detriment, on the contrary it makes the film more focused in my eyes. The Favourite deals with a love triangle, and the struggle for power. At the tip we have Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman, who is the person everyone is trying to please or get good with. The whole film revolves around her good graces and the power she possesses. Next is Lady Sarah, played by Rachel Weisz, who is already the Queen’s right hand as the film starts off. She is basically the strategic leader of the country, and the one making the decisions for the Queen. Finally we have Abigail, played by Emma Stone, who is the new maid and cousin of Lady Sarah. As a person of nobility, she fell hard after her father bet her to a German man in a game of cards. She is determined to regain her status as a lady with any means necessary.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way the characters play with the viewers emotions. Throughout the film you don’t really know who to root for. For the first half of the film, Abigail is seen as the underdog. An ex-lady given away to a German man casually raping her from time to time. She came to the palace as a common maid and had a tough time dealing with her colleagues. For the beginning of the film, we feel sympathy for her, and see Lady Sarah as the “villain”, taking advantage of a frail old Queen for personal gain. Yet, its not as simple as it seems. Throughout the film we see Abigail playing even dirtier than Lady Sarah ever did. The constant tug of war for power and the good graces of the Queen is captivating. You never know what will happen next, and your sympathy as a viewer keeps shifting back and forth, it ends up creating an interesting relationship between us and the characters.
Aside from the great back and forth between the characters, I just wanted to highlight one aspect that I noticed from both Yorgos films I watched. Its the fact that this man knows how to make an impactful ending. My god does he stick the landing perfectly with this film. At the end of the film we are basically left with all three characters in their worst possible nightmares. And it is not due to bad luck or outside forces, they basically brought this upon themselves. Lady Sarah has lost all her power and is being banished from the country. She basically caused this on herself. She let her guard down, and relaxed while taking the Queen for granted. She thought the Queen was not capable of letting her go. Which she wasn’t, but nevertheless. The Queen is at her lowest as well. Her gout is getting extremely painful and she had just banished the one person who would truly care for her. Again, she in some way brought it upon herself by being stubborn about Abigail. She wanted both of them, and didn’t care of the repercussions. Finally we have Abigail, who at first seemed justified in her pursuit to regain her status as a lady. But it ended with her going back to where she started. To being a slave again, to being degraded once more. Her status as a lady meant nothing to the Queen. And the power move she did at the end of the film just showcased that.
I could go on and on about this film. I haven’t even begun to talk about everything it does right. The acting is phenomenal from all three leads, and they all deserve the utmost praise. The score is magnificent and just plays so well with the tone and themes of the film. Speaking of the tone, we see a return of the usual Yorgos dark comedy tone but on a lighter sense. It is still there but it is not as concentrated as a film like The Lobster. Yet it works for this film. And the cinematography my god. Who would think putting a camera in the corner of the room with a fisheye lens would work. But it did! I don’t even know what to say anymore. It is a master film. Although I enjoyed the overall message of The Lobster along with its much more interesting world. The Favourite edges it out only slightly due to how tight the film is as a whole. You do not want to miss this one. It’s in my eyes one of only two films that are worth seeing from this year’s Best Picture nominees.
Favourite Film (pun intended)