Yorgos Lanthimos creates films that are simultaneously breathtaking masterful and horrific to endure. His last film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, successfully managed to emulate the experience of having a mild heart attack, due to its unrelenting tension. He returns to cinemas with a British costume drama, one that may be his most accessible work to date, in the form of The Favourite. But don't expect a gentle film. It is a bawdy, vile, wonderfully repulsive work, an unforgettable watch that this critic loved every second of.
The Favourite takes audiences into the court of Queen Anne. With
At the heart of The Favourite is a bracingly funny script (courtesy of Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara) devoured by a fabulous ensemble. There are wonderful turns from the likes of Mark Gatiss, James Smith and Nicholas Hoult, all clearly having fun. But the film saves the best for its central trio, who all turn in career best performances. It is fascinating to watch Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone connive and manipulate, controlling the tone of the scenes with their actions and reactions. You particularly appreciate just how expressive Stone is here, her face often telling its own story. But this film belongs to Olivia Colman as Queen Anne. Seemingly her entire career, straddling both comedy and drama, has built towards this role and she is staggeringly good in it, a petulant, scheming child. It is an ugly performance, yet able to foster sympathy in audiences for her, and if there is any justice Colman will hold aloft an Academy Award for Best Actress next February.
Amongst the gowns, wigs and grand palaces, one can't help but feel there is a reflection here of modern politics. Where Lanthimos's last film felt like it was influenced heavily by Greek tragedy, this time his touching point feels like The Thick of It (swearing and all) and maybe even a little Blackadder. The repugnant characters are wonderfully shot by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, who disorientates with an expert use of a fish eye lens. And they are bedecked in some really quite fabulous attire, courtesy of costume designer Sandy Powell, who has considerable experience with costume dramas. Her craft here may very well lead her to her fourth Oscar win, and certainly a thirteenth nomination. It is the marriage of technical craft with the film's message of an ugly, out-of-touch elite that makes The Favourite even more potent.
The Favourite is a fabulous cinematic treat. A film that repulses and draws audiences in, it is anchored by a trio of performances from actors at the peak of their abilities. A wonderfully vile delight and a cinematic must see.
This is a London Film Festival preview and The Favourite will be released on the 1st January 2019.