The Favourite is a sumptuous, mordant, slapstick lesbian love triangle meets Stuart royal court drama in which everyone is a morbid hilarious bitch. This is, mm probably my MOVIE OF THE YEAR. Maybe the movie of the year? I’ve a good few to go still, but this one is such a fucking diamond. It’s as if Yorgos Lanthimos, my adored weirdo Greek auteur of The Killing of a Sacred Deer and The Lobster, wondered what would happen if he stirred Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall into a pitcher of Armando Iannucci shows, strained out every pip of male POVs, then poured the whole lively cocktail over a block of dry ice carved in the shape of a duck named Horatio. God or maybe a rabbit. (The rabbits.)
What’s probably gonna anoint The Favourite as so many Lanthimos fans’…favorite.. is that it’ll be the easiest one to recommend to others, but doesn’t feel like he’s “gone mainstream.” It’s not that it’s a milder Yorgos, just looser, meanwhile the narrative structure has never been tighter—really successful adjustment of his sliders! It’s still deadpan and arch, but his dear Rachel Weisz can now explore a greater range on that scale freed from what had become the characteristic but essentially restrictive Lanthimos Monotone. It’s still abruptly violent, but now it’s the bloodless, physical comedy jolt of Nicholas Hoult just brusquely shoving Emma Stone into a ditch.
Incidentally, Nicholas Hoult should be nominated for an Oscar. The women are all already going to be and they deserve it, three terrific actors turning in the the kind of performances where you exclaim “she’s never been better!” Olivia Coleman, long one of our most stupendous performers, is the absolute heart of the movie, delivering both the greatest laughs (my audience was losing it) and the truest pathos (my audience was losing it!). Rachel Weisz feels like she’s just striding along at the top of her ever-stunning game, rendering a hilarious, powerful Machiavellian beauty into an end product I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, she’s almost like a glib duchess pirate? Incredible, and also *whew* [fans neck a little]. And Emma Stone is pitch perfect in a wickedly fun charm-to-cruelty ascent so suited for her talents, gradually transforming her always exemplary #relatable clarity of expression into the comedy villainy I think she’s somehow never played? (Glad Hollywood seems to have finally clicked in to this direction for her.)
Ahh but see this is the thing, The Favourite is so abounding in Great Performances that you get talking about how good all the ladies are and nearly forget to talk about Nicholas Hoult! Who kills here. He’s wearing a curled powdered wig as big as he is, a full face of makeup at all times, and this entire concoction would seem to physically bear him to the floor were he not held sniffily aloft by the BIGGEST attitude. A hapless ineffectual fop (every man, duke, and lad in this movie is this way) who insists on trying to wheel & deal anyway against a mad queen and two grade A geniuses, god Hoult is just….a delectable treat.
This movie is also a true delight to simply look at. It’s beautiful, with this in-camera high contrast I found so aesthetically soothing. Gorgeous, slightly off-key period costumes (those laser-cut chokers!) in so much deep navy-blacks and cream-whites, against a naturally chiaroscuro lighting theme drawn from large tall windows pouring in streams of bright grey natural light, and what I realized must be the period-appropriate contrast of inky dark interior palace hallways with no electricity to counter the lack of windows, just a scattering of amber candles. Truly one of the aesthetic flexes of the year is the DP shooting the Queen’s bedchamber hung in dense ornate tapestries with a fishbowl lens—the kind of odd, art anachronism I do love in my historical films, thank you.
Anyway, The Favourite: SUPPORT THE GIRLS. (Which I will also see soon I promise.)