Saturday, 29 December 2018

The Favourite (2018) - Movie Review latest from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, while it lacks his attachment to the script as well as the involvement of his go-to DOP Thimios Bakatakis, operates within his usual realms of all things quietly insane. A costume drama set in the early 18th century, involving a battle for the favour of Queen Anne (played superbly by Olivia Colman) between cousins Abigail (Emma Stone in rare, vengeful form) and Sarah (Rachel Weisz apparently trying to redeem herself for her last attempt at romantic period drama). It marks the most easily-digestible film Yorgos has made yet, meaning that I’m not going to be wallowing in a critical malaise trying to figure this shit out like last time. It also means I get to talk about one of the funniest films I’ve seen all year without any cerebral hang-ups.

I will say, though, that I do miss Bakatakis’ camera work with this one. Robbie Ryan does a good job at capturing the upper class in all its eccentricities, but I could’ve done without the rather pointless overuse of fish-eye lens. It is incredibly distracting, but thankfully, it is the only production aspect that does this. Everywhere else, it’s all expensive wine and roses. The costumes are impeccable and the soundtrack from Sarah Giles and Nick Payne carry that same mentally-deranged orchestra effect as they did with Killing Of A Sacred Deer. It sticks to mostly classical pieces, and then it’ll suddenly dip into organ drone like someone in the background is trying to invent trap music at least two centuries early.

And on that note, while I could point out this film’s varying levels of historical inaccuracy… well, part of that inaccuracy is in the dialogue, and I’m not about to shit on a good thing because this is amazingly well-written. Put together by the newly-minted Deborah Davis and Aussie TV scribe Tony McNamara, this certainly feels like it was written by someone who understands this kind of sexual power struggle, and someone from the land where cunt is the national word. This isn’t just vulgar, it’s vulgar to a truly exceptional degree, giving a very seedy undercurrent (or rather overcurrent with how prominent it is) to the story’s look at the British upper class. It goes from restrained to childish to venomous to sensuous at the drop of a hat; any film that uses words like ‘vajuju’ and ‘cuntstruck’ is definitely shooting for colour points, and it certainly gets them. Along with some of the hardest laughs at the upper crust I’ve uttered since first watching Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing. Oh, and duck racing; that helps too.

Of course, vulgarity isn’t exactly something that a film like this can sustain as its sole quality; this is about aristocrats but it ain’t The Aristocrats. Instead, the forceful writing ends up serving a greater edge as it helps the depiction of the royal inner circle do what people in the royal inner circle are best known for: Straight-faced backstabbing. It’s a darkly comedic, almost screwball, depiction of royal power struggles, with Abigail and Sarah going to varyingly psychotic lengths in order to curry favour with the Queen. While driven by differing ends, Abigail wanting to regain her regal standing after being sold off by her father to a balloon-shaped German with a thin cock (her words, not mine) while Sarah merely wants to retain the status she already has, they both thirst for power by proxy. What results from their snide battle of wills is Beast vs. Smiler by way of weapons-grade foppishness, both showing different but equally vicious mindsets.

And then there’s the Queen herself, who we end up feeling most sorry for in the midst of all this. All the credit has to go to Olivia Colman for her performance here, as her depiction of the very lame-in-the-classical-sense and psychologically scarred monarch handles a lot of difficult thematic territory with remarkable ease. Showing a sizeable sense of humour, and a rather self-parodic level of disinterest with affairs of state, it’s difficult not to feel bad for her circumstances and the people two-facing her regarding the ongoing war. But the real genius with this is how, even with all that in mind, the film never loses its bearings. No matter who ends up winning her affections, they are still siding up to this woman because she holds the power. They may both try to get into the Queen's bed, but it's a Queen-sized bed for a reason.

This is an exceptionally funny film, possibly one of the best Yorgos has made yet in that regard. But don't let that fool you; this still delves into quite dark territory, and by the time the credits start rolling, the last thing you'll want to be doing is laughing.


  1. Great review! I had to mull over this one for almost a week before I really knew how to feel about it. I definitely need to see it again soon!

  2. I saw this film yesterday & saw you on ABC TV tonight. Found your Movie Review website & what an excellent review for this oddly eccentric movie. Your perspective on this helped me to think through my own. An interesting movie & a great movie review. Thank you