The Favourite is lifted massively by its sheer wall of foreshadowing, presenting itself so readily at all opportunities
Yorgos Lanthimos’ films are rapidly becoming some of the most instantly recognisable currently releasing across all of cinema. The incomparable style, blended with the bizarre and unnatural form of his story lines brings about true individuality, and the themes he commands seem to be obsessively continued throughout all of his work. The Favourite, Lanthimos’ first feature not scripted himself, continues that notion, taking his style back to Great Britain’s monarchy of the 1700’s, refusing to let up on any detail that may sway from his obscure style of creation.
When the country was commanded by its monarchy, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) held all the power, and the final say on all decisions. However, as she struggles with a serious case of gout, Anne’s mind is elsewhere, and her decisions are heavily influenced by her confidante, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), The Duchess Of Marlborough. Sarah’s control over the country is constant and heavy until her cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace looking for work, but her motives are questioned and her motive questionable.
Perhaps boasting the strongest script of all of Lanthimos’ films, The Favourite is lifted massively by its sheer wall of foreshadowing, presenting itself so readily at all opportunities. This comes with a crass, bold and unashamed personality that gives the preempting of the plot a cold, hard reality. The Favourite is a film desperate to tell its story in the most offensive and biting way possible, but it wants to offend, whilst still remaining watchable and enthralling.
Yet, as a script to feature conversion, the story occasionally feels powerless. Lanthimos does a great job of shifting power between the characters, but for a film as bold as The Favourite this needed to be laid out with a greater sense of rigidity within the story, enabling the full potential impact to hit. Occasionally, this lack of clarity on where this power shift leaves the characters has a set in impact on the wider sense of the reality they exist in.
This also stems from the closed environment the story, and Lanthimos’ direction, commands. The palace acts as if it were its own secluded land, playing host to the majority of The Favourite’s scenes. This allows for a sense of vital importance to set in, but leaves it needing complete control over its own direction to work at the top level.
However, without meticulously analysing the piece, instead looking at it as a broader work of cinema, the quality is still there. Emma Stone gives a career performance, better than the part she played in La La Land, her Oscar winning role, and Olivia Colman is an absolute marvel of emotions. The pair wouldn’t be surprise winners of Academy Awards come February, and that goes for many sections of the piece, even Best Picture when all things are considered.
It isn’t Lanthimos’ best work, but it is absolutely his most approachable from the outside, and that counts for a lot in terms of modern cinema. The Favourite seems to be his jump into the big time, with recognition and success very much heading his way. The feature is strong, powerful and unforgiving, and only doesn’t blow the competition away because Lanthimos has set his own standards so unbelievably high.
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