Film review: The Favourite (2018)

 

 

 

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Spoiler-free review. Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer was my #1 of 2017 and I consider Dogtooth (2009) among the most original foreign films of the last ten years, so on that basis I was obviously looking forward to what the Greek filmmaker would do next.

Strong performances,  elegant costumes, and witty dialogue are the best things going on. Set in the 1700s, a fictionalized account of life at the court in England with an unhinged, ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and the manipulative cousins (Rachel Weisz & Emma Stone) who vie for her favor. It’s been written there is no evidence Queen Anne was a lesbian though no way to rule this out categorically. The Queen is affected by grief, as she has lost several children and adds a rabbit to her collection each time to comfort herself. The story is also about jealousy and abuse of power, hardly new territory, but themes that still hold true and are presented in an entertaining, comedic way.

 

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Lots of talent involved in front of and behind the camera, new screenwriters are brought in, and a bigger budget for the director, but I prefer Lanthimos’ previous films he co-wrote with Efthymis Filippou which leave room for the viewer to interpret. His latest, while well-acted and fun at times, is a performance-driven period comedy-drama that is style over substance. Worth a watch yet feels oscar-baity and not as dream-like compared to Lanthimos’ earlier work. A crowd-pleasing comedy and pretty straightforward.

 

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As another blogger noted, The Favourite is “born out of real world misogyny – a time and place where women had few options“. Yet there are echoes of #MeToo as well according to the director. As timely as it may seem, the original screenplay for The Favourite was written 20 years ago, but was easier to get made now where films with female casts are regular occurrences.

I’m not the biggest fan of period films so that may have played a part in my middling enjoyment. What we get is an edgy arthouse filmmaker attempting to appeal to the masses with a mainstream oscar contender. A few scenes amused me such as the wedding night and returning from hell speech. May have been more enjoyable if I’d seen it with a packed audience. Perhaps on rewatches I’ll grow to love the humorous exchanges? Isn’t a bad film yet not something I connected to on a personal or emotional level. He is a director who made his name by creating original concepts and the inventiveness is what drew me to his work in the first place.
Not a total sell out by Lanthimos as the film is still quite weird, but the storytelling is certainly not as bold and surprising as his previous work and may slightly underwhelm those fans who loved the director’s darker, challenging tales. If Lanthimos’ smaller arthouse films were too strange and disturbing for you, The Favourite, which subverts gender roles and is the director’s funniest, might be exactly what you want.

7/10

 

 
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome

 

11 thoughts on “Film review: The Favourite (2018)

  1. @ninvoid99: Lacks the eeriness and mystery of Dogtooth and Sacred Deer. Yet The Favourite is probably the most purely entertaining of his films. I was expecting things that weren’t in the film. If I knew beforehand was a light comedy I might have liked it better.

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    1. @sati: Yeah I get that Lanthimos’ disturbing work is not for everyone. Fair enough if wants to make different kinds of films with bigger appeal. But I kind of lost respect for the guy in the way he aimed for awards season consideration and made The Favourite very safe and accommodating. Perhaps I’m just too fussy!

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      1. I love Lanthimos in his most “disturbing” form, but I equally loved The Favourite. I do not think that the movie is “more accessible” at all. That is one way to look at it, but I think The Favourite bends the period drama genre, and Lanthimos done the best he could to make it “his own”. He definitely filmed it without compromising his style. He also definitely tried to distinguish his work from the usual period drama group. Most of Lanthimos’s disturbing and macabre trademarks were present, but I admit they took a step back to give way to the brilliant performances/characterisation.

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  2. @dbmoviesblog: You should marry Lanthimos as you love everything he does 🙂 No, just kidding 🙂 The dialogue, sets, performances are on point and as you said it’s his take on a period film. Not a bad effort and I didn’t hate it. The Favourite just didn’t have the sense of mystery I loved in his prior work. The story was much more straightforward. As noted in Sati’s review there is some stuff under the surface regarding whether Emma Stone’s character was bad to start with or became that way, and the final shot of the rabbits is interesting.

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    1. I cannot marry Lanthimos because he is already married to Ariane Labed (I am 6 years late), but honestly I do not want to marry him anyway 🙂 You are right, there is not enough mystery there, but then it is not a mystery or dystopian film. And, Lanthimos did not write The Favourite for us to start judging its content and his thinking at the same time. We do it anyway, of course 🙂

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      1. @dbmoviesblog: I suppose the logical thing (my review is obviously subjective!) would be to compare The Favourite with other period-comedies. I haven’t looked into what’s available though did remind me of the wittiness in the Kate Beckinsale film Love & Friendship. I guess Lanthimos’ latest owes something to Jane Austen and maybe Whit Stillman as well.

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