Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.
If you have ever seen a film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, you will understand that his films tend to be what some people may say are divisive. Lanthimos is an auteur by design and makes his movies in a way that makes sense to him and proves his point. Lanthimos does not appear to care if you like his movies because he makes whatever he wants to make. This is on full display in The Favourite, as the story may leave some viewers with more questions than answers. Powered by elite performances by Colman, Stone, and Weisz, The Favourite is truly bizarre, but it is bizarre in the best ways possible.
The story follows Sarah Churchill (Weisz) and her favorable relationship with Queen Anne (Colman) which presents Sarah with political and financial advantages. When Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Stone) comes to the kingdom looking for work, Abigail quickly gains favor with the Queen which angers Sarah. The two of them continuously battle for the attention of the Queen and will go to whatever lengths necessary to get the power and wealth that come with that friendship. One of things that immediately stands out is the level of development regarding many of the below the line elements of this movie. The costume design is gorgeous, the cinematography is beautiful, and there many moments of breathtaking editing. Lanthimos is clearly a creative type and wanted to movie to look as good as it was performed and written. Very rarely can a film master all of these elements so masterfully, but The Favourite is a testament to what a true attention to detail can do for a movie. Outside of the technical elements, the acting is unsurprisingly just as impressive. When you have a trio of actresses like Colman, Stone, and Weisz, naturally your film will be at the very least well acted. While Colman is absolutely eccentric in the lead role, the real power comes from the dynamic between Weisz and Stone. Your opinion of the characters will vary rapidly based on which part of the movie you are watching, and this almost entirely due to the performances from these two. These two each brought their absolute best and do a fantastic job of balancing each scene they are in, especially when the two of them are together. The one thing I believe everyone will talk about after watching this movie is the ending and its abstract nature. The way the film ends is a very Lanthimos thing to do, where the outcome is not exactly clear and we do not get the closure that many people were looking for. I felt as though the ending was appropriate because it positions itself well within the context of the movie. Part of why the ending may be viewed less favorably is that I believe there is a subtle commentary on power and political influence, but I am probably reading into something that is not there. While I understand the reasoning for making this ending the way it was, it may have a tougher time translating to audiences who may not see these types of movies very often.
Overall, The Favourite is a dramatic, dark comedy that has moments that should at the very least keep people entertained for a few moments. This is not going to be everyone’s favorite movie of all time, and many may end up thinking, “why do people think this is good?” Ultimately, there was just way too much talent attached to this project for it to ever truly fail, and the only question you can ask before watching is really, “how good will this be?’ Regardless of the potentially divisive nature, The Favourite does more than enough things right to make it an Awards season contender for sure.
Overall Score: 8/10