‘If you do not go, I will start kicking you and I will not stop…’
Director Yorgos Lanthimos has become one of the most unique voices in cinema in recent years. His bizarre masterpiece Dogtooth was followed by instant classic The Lobster and the underrated The Killing of a Sacred Deer. It was only a matter of time before this hot streak translated into Academy recognition and his latest project The Favourite could be the film to thrust Yorgos Lanthimos into the picture houses and living rooms of unsuspecting film fans everywhere…
In early 18th century England, the frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is leader of the United Kingdom in name only. Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), Anne’s close friend and distant relative of Winston, rules in the Queen’s physical and mental absence. This uneasy alliance runs relatively smoothly until the unexpected appearance of Abigail (Emma Stone), an ambitious and scheming servant.
The Favourite is the first Lanthimos movie that he didn’t also write. This means the dialogue is less stilted and offbeat but this is still undoubtedly a Lathimos production. It’s all there in the obsession with sex, the extreme close ups and the healthy dollop of the absurd. As with The Lobster, this film combines great tragedy with black humour to produce an experience that is akin to an adult sitting on a child’s chair. Just when you think you are starting to get comfortable, the nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right remains.
But enough about the director. This is a film of actors. There is no one star of The Favourite. The three leads, Colman, Stone and Weisz are all phenomenal. And I mean, as good as it gets. Olivia Colman has all the regal grace of a stroppy teenager without ever slipping into caricature, Emma Stone is equally at home playing a wide eyed servant as she is as a triumphant Lady and Rachel Weisz’s steely eyed take on Lady Sarah is possibly the best turn of her career. The three of them together smoulder and snap like Daenerys Targaryen’s trio of dragons. It is difficult to recall any movie in which the three leads share such a tangible chemistry.
Elsewhere, Nicolas Hoult has a lot of fun as leader of the opposition Robert Harley and it is always a pleasure to see Mark Gatiss on the big screen. This ensemble cast work together to present a grotesque tableau of life at court that is at once arresting, hilarious and deeply upsetting. A strong start to Oscar season.