The Favourite (2019)
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Starring: Emma Stone, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss, Nicholas Hoult, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz.
Outstanding performances make this black comedy stand out from other New Year offerings in 2019.
There’s a power struggle at the heart of The Favourite, the latest offering from director Yorgos Lanthimos, that sees the madness of Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) in the 18th century causing turbulence in her palace, as two ladies in waiting fight to become her BFF. Current number one Lady Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) has taken the reigns as far as running the country is concerned as The Queen suffers from ill health and would rather play with her rabbits all day, no pun intended. However new addition to the downstairs staff Abigail, (Emma Stone) is looking to regain her status after her nobleman father gambled away his estate, causing her to fall into poverty. As Abigail tries to rise through the ranks to acquire the status and wealth she craves so much, it seems that Weisz is the one one obstacle in her way, and when she uncovers the true extent of their relationship, there are no lengths that she won’t stoop to in her quest for glory.
Approaching The Favourite, it’s a difficult film to get a handle on. There are moments of Thick Of It comedy that are truly funny funny. There are acerbic one liners and moments of slapstick, but as you enter the third act, everything starts to become darker, edgier and more disturbing. The screenplay itself is a work of genius, and as a viewer you are as manipulated as the characters in the film itself. We have sympathy for Stone, yet her arc, a genuine arc for a character in a screenplay, follows a truthful path and we are forced to reconsider her in every way. Lady Marlborugh also goes through some traumatic indignities as the story plays out, and it’s the attention to detail from director Lathimos that allows us into the inner workings of their devious, duplicitous and ambitious minds.
Also worth mentioning are the costumes and sets for this production. As you would expect, the lavish costumes are meticulous and striking, but the locations and sets are also fantastic. From the ornate decor of the chambers and ballrooms, to the woods and lands on the estate grounds, everything looks incredible. The candle lit hallways also allow a contrast in colour pallet and adds menace and subterfuge to those quiet scenes where plots are hatched and schemes dispatched. The power struggle between the two ambitious female leads Weisz and Stone is mesmerising, and coupled with Coleman’s hair pin trigger performance as The Queen, means that acting wise you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Stone uses her innocence and likability to convey a sympathetic vulnerability to her every move, then as her plan unfolds, she becomes a malevolent presence not to be reckoned with. It’s a stunning display, only equalled by Weisz and her Dick Turpin – esque portrayal of the true power behind the throne, and the lengths she has to go to, to protect it.
Coleman limps painfully from scene to scene, moving from childlike happiness to twisted puppet master with ease. Her portrayal is pitch perfect in every scene, and of the 3 she commands the screen with the most ease. The awards await.
All in all, this is refreshing and original film, packed with style and wit, darkness and despair, that shows a production team at the top end of the film industry , not afraid to take chances with material that the general public usually shies away from. Casting should get a respectable turn out at the cinemas, and this film deserves to be seen.