FIVE STARS A young woman forces the Queen to choose between her and the royal advisor, who is not amused.
Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone
PERIOD DRAMA #THEFAVOURITE
What happens when the Queen is forced to choose between two power-hungry women and a country that needs direction in the face of French hostility? Fight, of course. Not that Queen Anne (Olivia Colman in a powerhouse performance) seems match-fit exactly - she’s suffering from gout, loneliness and several other internal ailments that have left her heavily dependent on her carer, advisor and lover, the Lady Marlborough (Rachel Weisz in another powerhouse performance). Complicating matters is the arrival of Marlborough’s destitute niece (Emma Stone in, yes, a powerhouse performance) whose cunning lands her a position first in the palace, then apartment and finally bed of the Queen as cuckoo-like she displaces her ‘most beloved’ Aunt.
Unlike most period dramas, THE FAVOURITE isn’t burdened but actually liberated by the genre. Director Yorgos Lanthimos (THE LOBSTER and THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER) makes the assumption that the 19th century court wasn’t a buttoned down affair populated by snowflake ladies but one where the word c*nt was in common usage and society was a feisty bloodsport in which women took no prisoners. Accordingly, his film is a whip-smart, dry-as-a-bone comedy-drama in which the fate of the nation is decided by the stronger sex while men (notably Opposition Leader Nicholas Hoult - MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) fade into the shadows. Delicious.
And that’s just what THE FAVOURITE is, an extraordinarily delicious treat that should have you hooked from the pre-credit logo. Aided and abetted by Lanthimos’s taste for absurd angles, fish-eye lenses and whip-pans that simply add to the visual dialogue: the camera snaps around the scene as if to ask ‘what now?!’ It’s easy to say that the heart of the film is performance (although Colman, Weisz and Stone have never been better - and that’s saying something), however this is a superlative example of a whole being more than the sum of its parts. Screenplay, cinematography, costume, music, casting, editing, direction and the cast all come together to create something truly magical.
Working from a script by Deborah Davis and Australian Tony McNamara (PUBERTY BLUES), Lanthimos tones down the surreal nature of his earlier work as he explores the corrupting influence of power, a decision that pay off magnificently. That’s not to say that THE FAVOURITE is in any way less provocative; its accessibility grants the provocation greater power. The result is a wickedly funny, occasionally sad, frequently poignant journey into the sublime that simply demands, by royal order, to be seen. Listen to your Queen.