'The Favourite' - A period piece meets 'The Lobster' [REVIEW]

The Favourite

And the Oscar for Best Costumes and Makeup goes to...

Yorgos Lanthimos is a weird dude. One watch of The Lobster or The Killing of a Sacred Deer (probably Dogtooth as well, which is the one film of his I haven’t yet seen) will tell you that much. Mixing that weird, unpredictable style with an old-time period piece kind of style, as seen in The Favourite, is a bold choice to say the least.

Yet, here we are.

The Favourite is a new Lanthimos film that’s been getting all kinds of awards buzz since premiering at the Venice International Film Festival last August. Now receiving five Golden Globe nominations and being selected as one of the top 10 best films of 2018 by the American Film Institute, it’s likely that you’re going to see The Favourite everywhere this Oscar season.

Set in 1708 Britain, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne of a divided kingdom.

The Favourite
credit: YouTube

At least, her right-hand-woman Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough, tells her that it’s divided.

Queen Anne isn’t really one to get involved in political debates herself, like the one that currently has the entire country in an uproar. Along with her decreasing health, Queen Anne’s mental state is somewhat fragile after the loss of several children. Being Queen really doesn’t mean all that much to her at this point, which is why she just designates most of the duties to Sarah.

That’s exactly how Sarah likes it, too. Having been at Queen Anne’s side for eight years now, she knows how to run Britain better than anyone.

While that might frustrate someone like Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult), this poor dude who’s really just trying to get into the room where it happens, and other high-ranking officials, Sarah has no intentions of giving up that power, either.

 

The Favourite
credit: YouTube

 

Until, that is, her cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) comes along.

Abigail doesn’t come to Britain’s palace in hopes to achieve power. At first, she’s merely just there to take whatever work is given to her so that she can have a place to sleep and food to eat.

Rather, her quest for political prestige doesn’t come until after the Queen takes a special interest in her.

Nobody is exactly sure why Abigail has caught Queen Anne’s eye. Maybe it’s just the Queen’s way to have some fun with Sarah and make her jealous or maybe it’s because Abigail knows how to play this game of thrones better than most.

Either way, the attachment that springs up between Anne and Abigail is something that infuriates Sarah. With the fate of the whole country at stake, a war — and a ruthless, anything goes kind of war at that — rises between the two cousins as they both seek to be the queen’s favourite.

The Favourite
credit: YouTube

I really, really wanted to love The Favourite. The Lobster being one of the most inventively brilliant films of the past ten years, everything about this movie seemed to be screaming my name. The trailers were so good that I was practically ready to put it on my own personal top ten best list before actually seeing the movie.

Turns out, I didn’t love The Favourite. While this certainly isn’t a bad movie and I still admire a lot of what Lanthimos is going for here, I’m sorry to say that this isn’t going to crack my top ten.

First, the positives, because there really is a lot to admire in The Favourite.

The film, obviously, is filmed in a beautiful kind of manner from a production design point of view. Lanthimos is having all kinds of fun dressing his actors and actresses in these extravagant dresses and wigs while then forcing them to act in these absurd, unnatural ways.

The Favourite
credit: YouTube

Those actors and actresses, too, do great with the material that they’re given. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are all threats to get nominated here — despite the fact that I can’t fathom a guess whether their roles would fall into the Best Lead Actress or Best Supporting Actress category.

On a deeper level, it’s pretty impressive what Lanthimos is trying to do with The Favourite. This is really a movie about how backwards politics can be and the borderline insane and criminal ways people will act to gain some power. Maybe they were born into it or maybe they’ve been working their whole lives to get it, but once the realization of this power comes into an individual’s head, they’ll suddenly stop at nothing to try and achieve a little more.

That message, when properly explored, is a really interesting one with lots of modern-day relevancy. Problem is, it’s really not too properly explored in the movie, as the pacing in The Favourite feels way off.

For example: There’s a scene pretty early on where we see a whole bunch of parliament officials taking bets on lobster races — yes, real life lobsters who are given colored tags and forced to run around in circles. It’s a great moment that’s really funny, hints at the darker nature of the people involved with this profession and makes you think that’s what the whole movie is going to be like.

The Favourite
credit: YouTube

It’s really not, though. While there might be a few other moments like this that grace us on the screen — a pretty entertaining dance scene between Weisz and Joe Alwyn specifically stands out — they’re few and far between.

Instead, the rest of The Favourite focuses on pretty bland storytelling that’s largely missing that Lanthimos bite. This is easily his most accessible film — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself — but it is when accessible means dry or drawn-out, as it is in this case.

When The Favourite actually focuses on the rivalry between Sarah and Abigail or the scenes that take place in the royal court, the film is actually a lot of fun. When it gets sidetracked, however, that charm quickly wears off and leaves you wanting more. It’s not a bad movie, per-say, but I’d be lying if I said I was disappointed that this didn’t get Lobster levels of weird.

Watch the trailer for The Favourite here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought about the movie!

'The Favourite' - A period piece meets 'The Lobster' [REVIEW]
  • 'The Favourite' - A period piece meets 'The Lobster' [REVIEW]
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Brandon Schreur

The fella over there with the hella good hair. Movies and TV are my jam, and the fact that I get to write about them on a regular basis is the bees knees.

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