Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman. Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film has what must be the most attractive and talented cast of… well, any year really.
I didn’t find The Favourite to be quite the masterpiece everyone is raving about. I found it made one crucial mistake from which it never quite recovered, but more on that later.
If you have been living under a rock and have just emerged, The Favourite is the story of two young, ambitious women fighting to be the titular favourite of one Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). Sarah, an established lady and Anne’s current favourite is basically running the country for the queen, who is remarkably bad at being a queen. When Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, Sarah takes pity and orders Abigail to work the most menial, horrible jobs she can find. Family is family after all. Abigail sneakily finds her way to the queen good graces by tending to her aching legs with some herbs. After that there’s sex, guns and laughs, all shot magnificently by Robbie Ryan.
The Favourite is a blast, there’s no denying it. It will enrage some of the population with it’s lesbian politics and somewhat rude and strange humour, but Lanthimos is at the top of his game here and in total control. Not a single frame here has as much as a single hair out of place and it makes for a satisfying watch. Like Wes Anderson, but after a few beers and some cocaine.
The film wouldn’t be nearly as fabulous without Lanthimos’ cast. All three leads do a fantastic job. All those awards Olivia Colman has been collecting are for a reason. Her role might be at time ridiculous and frivolous, but Colman underlines it all with tremendous pain and suffering. Anne is truly tragic character and Colman sees the pain under the humour in it and employs it well, even when Anne is being played for gags.
Weisz and Stone are equally delicious as the rivalling cousins. Weisz especially injects her role with such power and hunger, it made me want to wear a corset and point a gun. Stone doesn’t reinvent herself here, but seems to have blended her own star persona with Abigail. It makes for an arresting watch, especially since the usually so PG-13 actress has decided to go nude for Lanthimos here. It feels fresh and bold and also, about damn time. Not the nudity, per se, although a little graceful nudity is always appreciated, male and female. What I mean is that Stone has been playing it safe for years while establishing herself in Hollywood. The Favourite feels like her jump to the deep end. This isn’t to say that Stone hasn’t been challenging herself or turned in great performances but this feels like she’s arrived somewhere and is definitely staying.
And now we get to my problem with the film. The film very heavily relies on the explosive dynamic between Abigail and Sarah as well as the comedy provided by Anne. When Lanthimos separates Abigail and Sarah, the film loses speed, its’ flame dies. It’s still perfectly fine and interesting, but it’s not able to move on or find something to replace the deliciously wicked relationship the cousins share. It simply never recovers, rendering the second half of the film joyless and dull and the first half much more superior. Shame.
The Favourite is still a great, great film, but I’m unable to move past my disappointment with the story. The last scene is bittersweet and powerful, but not enough to fix what they broke. Colman is the constant highlight of the film and deserves all the praise.