The following is my review and represents my opinion. No matter if you agree or disagree, I would like to have a discussion about the film and promote this wonderful art form. All I ask: be nice about it. Art is subjective and no one’s opinion is right.
Two ladies(Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) compete for the affection and favour of Queen Anne(Olivia Colman) in a time of political peril.
Yorgos Lanthimos‘ wild, bizarre and insane The Favourite can be called anything but standard. Every perspective on this film makes perfect sense: it is, indeed, the worst abomination of cinematic Satan(from one perspective) and the greatest, most magnificent triumph of 2018(from another). Regardless, ‘standard’ isn’t the correct term; quirky fits pretty well, but even that doesn’t encapsulate the alluring essence of Lanthimos‘ latest shining ray of weirdness: and spoiler alert, my opinion rests with the latter’s camp.
Lanthimos‘ direction needs to be commended: it is one of the most bafflingly brilliant cinematic constructions in years. Everything from his use of a wide lens to distort reality into a grim fever-dream to the generally idiosyncratic ‘feel’ of the movie bathes in the zaniness of his style. Stylistically, this film is unparalleled on two counts: for one, no one in their right mind would opt to attempt this style over traditional cinematography; and for another, its this detachment from the logical and coherent that makes the film such a pleasure to watch.
Exquisite production design, costuming and sets all underscore the visuals with an obscenely posh tint while a fantastic score, that is inherently classy with mischievous undertones, provides an unusually wise – yet also somehow morally twisted – overhang, one which lashes out against the so-called pristine lens placed over upper-class society; satirically biting at the heels of nobility’s alleged perfection.
Though at its core, the delightful aesthetic pales in comparison to the holy-trinity of acting grounding this movie, coming from Oliva Colman‘s Queen Anne and her two, in-film, personal ‘helpers’: Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. Obviously, Colman deserves the ultimate credit: her role is so transformative, detailed and engaging(she can seamlessly switch from jovial to Jason-Voorhees in seconds) that I will be appalled if the Oscars do not recognise it.
At her side are two equally compelling performances by the aforementioned Stone and Weisz, whose often hysterical, always maniacal, comradery and rivalry is the central focus. Nicholas Hoult also has a minor role as Lord Harley, giving a squirmy, easily detestable performance that is intrinsically rotten to the core: which makes a lot more sense once you’ve seen him pelt rotten fruit at a fat, naked man.
In the same vein, the story on show here is delectably rotten. It does something quite uniquely compelling in twisting your allegiances as the film progresses, where I found myself rooting for one character throughout the first half before changing my tune as the second half rolled. Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara‘s screenplay is seeping with madness, but in the funniest, yet also surprisingly darkest, ways. Fact and fiction are used interchangeably, but I think authenticity matters to Lanthimos less than physics matters to Fast and the Furious. All this culminates towards a climax(with multiple applicable connotations) that is admittedly a little too strange for me, lacking the charm to accompany the spontaneity. Likewise, the humour is not for everyone: trust me on that fact, watch some trailers and count some laughs(or sighs).
All that said, this film is – to quote Tommy Wiseau‘s The Room – ‘like sitting on an atom bomb, waiting for it to explode’. Beyond the humour and quirkiness, there is a genuinely compelling – realistically, disheartening – tale of loss and manipulation, brewing beneath the surface of men in wigs. Underneath the layers and layers of period-piece psychosis lies something best simplified as foreboding dread, though accurately distilling it is nigh impossible. All I can ever ask of a movie is to be interesting: not even original, compelling, well-acted, moving or entertaining. Just interesting is enough to say ‘Time Well Spent!’. And this film delivered interesting in spades. Blissfully, every other element works with superb precision: indicating that I may have an early ‘favourite’ for the year to come.