I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
The strange nature of being a film critic in Scotland is that all the films the Oscars are interested in come out in January as do the films of the Glasgow Film Festival. This means that most of the films I’m most excited about from the previous year are the first films I get to review in a given year. This is either super lucky, or it means it’s all downhill from here.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest bizarre creation is The Favourite (and yes that is the spelling of both the director’s name and the title), a costume drama from hell set in the early eighteenth century. Two ladies of the court, played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, compete for the favour of the long-suffering Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman.
I can’t consider myself to be a true Lanthimosian, partly because that’s a word made up by critics only a couple of months ago. It’s also because I’ve only seen one other film by Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos and that was 2014’s The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell as a lonely man who might be turned into a lobster if he didn’t find love. That’s not necessarily relevant to the review for this movie, beyond the point that he seems to have a knack for the darkly comic and weird.
This knack has transferred itself into his latest work, which is a truly subversive and transgressive period piece from its first frame to its last.
At the same time this film doesn’t do a Marie Antoinette by screaming “You’ve never seen a costume drama like this before!” It feels very much earned. The wit and energy of the characters and dialogue feel like they’re straight out of an eighteenth-century comedy. There’s a twinkle in the eye of the filmmakers as they make riot in this palace.
Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone are on top of their game right now. Both have received immense acclaim and attention for recent performances. It is here that they summit with a dry and hypnotic acting duet that goes from childish glee to the most cutting adult remarks.
Neither quite touch the brilliance of Olivia Colman, for my money the finest actress currently working, whose finally getting the attention she deserves after years of being the brilliant supporting performance in pretty much anything worth watching on British Television.
She plays Queen Anne with a tremendous sadness, which she somehow tinges with an unstable happiness. Anne has gone through some unimaginable suffering, the effects of which make her entirely unsuited for her responsibilities as Queen. It’s a piece of acting which does exactly what great acting should. It pulls you into the headspace of a woman we can never truly comprehend.
It is a performance which lies at the heart of this film which acts as a hilarious history lesson and a stylish fable of power and sex in beautiful palaces.
Recommended Scenario: When you want something a bit weird, but also just awesome!