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LFF 2018: The Favourite Review

The Favourite (2018)
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.

The Favourite, the latest film from visionary director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lobster), is a hilariously dark costume drama that explores the absurd monarchs and members of court of the 18th Century, loosely chronicling Queen Anne’s relationship with Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough and her cousin, Abigail. Straight away you can tell this is a Lanthimos film, his distinctive brand of visual style and offbeat humour are gloriously on show throughout this often absurd and sweary drama. Olivia Colman leads an absolutely phenomenal cast featuring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, who are clearly having a blast, that will no doubt pick up a number of nominations and awards! Think you know period dramas? Think again!

Set in the early 1700s with England at war with the French, an often ill (and childish) Queen Anne (Colman) occupies the throne with close friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) at her side. But when newcomer Abigail (Stone) arrives at the palace and quickly gains the Queen’s affection, she sparks an all out rivalry between her and her cousin, Lady Sarah. Lanthimos cleverly turns the costume drama stereotype on its head – throwing all pre conceived expectations of the genre out the window! There’s duck races, ridiculously silly dancing and copious amounts of the word c**t used, as well as some of the best insults and quips I’ve heard for a while – think Game of Thrones come Blackadder!

The Favourite reaffirms Olivia Coleman as a real British gem as she turns out possibly the best performance of her career, which is a pretty big feat! She really is deserving of the Oscar buzz surrounding her portrayal of Queen Anne, as she brings such a range to the role. One minute she’s a petulant and childish Anne, sulking that Lady Sarah said her makeup made her look like a badger, to a deeply affected Anne contemplating the death of her 17 children, represented by her 17 pet rabbits. “Each one that dies, a little bit of you goes with them.” The actress also undergoes a pretty big transformation throughout the film as Anne’s health progressively worsens, bringing an impressive physicality to the role. The chemistry she shares with co-stars Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz is just brilliant though, all three are genuinely hilarious, revelling in the witty and razor sharp script.

As well as the phenomenal performances from the cast, I’ve got to give kudos to the brilliant costume designer Sandy Powell who has brought to life some of the most fabulous and hilarious costumes, as well as the makeup and hair department. Stars Nicholas Hoult and Joe Alwyn are almost unrecognisable in some of the most ridiculous wigs and make up I’ve seen in a long time! Lanthimos brings his distinctive flair to the film with odd and unnaturally wide angle shots using fish eye lenses, as well as distracting whip-pans which did take me out of the film somewhat.

The Favourite is unlike any other costume drama that you’ve seen before – you’ll laugh and gasp at the sheer ridiculousness of it all – but you’ll have a complete blast watching it! Yes the visual style does take a little while to get used to and the story is a little thin, but Olivia Coleman’s performance is worth the ticket price alone.