The Favourite ★★★ 1/2
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All women, most of the time
The trailer markets “The Favourite” as British court farce, with clips of lavishly dressed scene-eaters. Ever-challenging director Yorgos Lanthimos, however, turns the genre on its head, no doubt disappointing those who thought they would see a period “Fawlty Towers.” The straightforward plot pits a trusted but manipulative counselor to a monarch against a younger and even more manipulative upstart.
Lanthimos upends the period drama by giving all the major roles to women. The men are irrelevant stereotypes; the political, emotional and even sexual dramas are all among the women. Olivia Colman has been nominated for a Best Actress Oscar as the neurotic and needy Queen. Rachel Weisz (“My Cousin Rachel”) as her ensconced counselor with her own political agenda and Emma Stone as the cruel and narcissistic –“I’m in this for me”—challenger (a far cry from her “La La Land” role), have both been nominated for Best Supporting Actress. If there were an Oscar for Best Ensemble, these three women would be “favourites.”
Unlike in typical British farce, Lanthimos plumbs the emotional and psychological depths of his three main characters, offering indelible portraits: the female monarch makes her bedroom a warren for a herd of rabbits who stand in for the 17 babies she lost; the political conniver aims to keep Britain at war with France, playing politics à la Margaret Thatcher; and the schemer, who is pushed from a carriage into the mud, marking her fall from royalty and grace, returns with a vengeance.
Lanthimos sometimes has an obscenely grotesque, over-the-top sensibility (“Killing of a Sacred Deer,” 2017). Here he harnesses his peculiar talents to produce a more accessible —yet at the same time unique —result.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone.
Oscars: Won: Best Actress (Olivia Colman); Nominated: Best Original Screenplay (Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara); Best Achievement in Production Design (Fiona Crombie, Alice Felton); Best Achievement in Costume Design (Sandy Powell); Best Motion Picture of the Year (Ceci Dempsey, Ed Guiney, Lee Magiday, Yorgos Lanthimos); Best Achievement in Directing (Yorgos Lanthimos); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Rachel Weisz); Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Emma Stone); Best Achievement in Cinematography (Robbie Ryan); Best Achievement in Film Editing (Yorgos Mavropsaridis).
Other Awards: Nominated for 330 total, won 185.
Runtime: 119 minutes
Originally published in theAmerican/inItalia, here.