Quantcast
Channel: Good Efficient Butchery
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

In Theaters: THE FAVOURITE (2018)

0
0

THE FAVOURITE
(US/UK/Ireland - 2018)

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, James Smith, Mark Gatiss, Jenny Rainsford, Carolyn Saint-Pe. (R, 119 mins)

"As it turns out, I'm capable of much unpleasantness." 

After his controversial 2009 international breakthrough DOGTOOTH, Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos shifted to English-language films but has lost none of his gift for the caustic and the confrontational. Whether it's the Kafka-esque, absurdist nightmare of THE LOBSTER or the bitterly cold Kubrickian chill of THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER, Lanthimos pulls no punches and takes no prisoners, and though he didn't write his latest film, the 18th century period piece THE FAVOURITE, it's very much in his wheelhouse while at the same time being his most commercially accessible work yet. With its setting and its use of natural lighting, it recalls Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON, and that also extends to its self-serving characters, key among them a core trio of mean girls in an environment of garish opulence that often masks the grotesque, with nearly every bodily function on display at some point. It frequently feels like Jane Austen adapted by Kubrick in a really nasty mood, but Lanthimos takes a much more aggressive technical approach beyond the long Steadicam and tracking shots, often utilizing super wide-angle and fish-eye lenses for conveying the sense of disorienting madness that comes with being enmeshed in the dysfunctional world of Queen Anne, played here by relentlessly busy British TV vet Olivia Colman, in what should be a star-making performance.






It's 1708 and England is at war with France, but a disconnected Anne remains largely isolated in her chamber, uninterested in politics, emotionally needy, depressed, and psychologically unstable, prone to off-the-handle raging and binge-eating. She's widowed and spends her time caring for her 17 rabbits, one for each child she lost through either natural causes, stillbirth, or miscarriage. All of her official business is conducted by her chief adviser and close confidante Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). Pragmatic, shrewd, and ruthless, Sarah keeps the Queen blissfully ignorant and under her thumb, using the power of the throne and her close access to further her own agenda, which is closely tied to her military general husband, the Duke of Marlborough (Mark Gatiss). As such, Sarah pushes for more war and higher taxes, always getting the Queen to go along with it, much to the chagrin of foppish, ambitious opposition party leader Harley (Nicholas Hoult). Sarah's control over Queen Anne turns unexpectedly precarious with the arrival of Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), her cousin whose own once-noble family fell on hard times, culminating in Abigail's drunkard father losing her in a card game when she was 15, not long before he was killed in a fire. Sarah gets Abigail a job as a lowly scullery maid, but she ends up getting the Queen's attention when her skills with a natural herb remedy prove effective in relieving her chronic pain from gout. Before long, Abigail is spending more time with the Queen as Sarah is gradually frozen out, prompting an increasingly vicious game of one-upmanship between the cousins that doesn't go unnoticed by Her Royal Highness, who revels in the attention and the distraction it provides from her own misery and toxic insecurities.


Much of THE FAVOURITE is a comedy that's dark, bile-soaked and extraordinarily mean. At the same time, the competition that existed between Sarah and Abigail is historically accurate, with Lanthimos and screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara going into specific detail on things that were merely whispered about through history, namely the extent of the relationship between Queen Anne and Sarah, in addition to the psychosexual games the cousins played with the queen, both going to intimate extremes to "service" her, win her favor, and preserve the privilege of power that comes with being by her side. Though it's a film populated by characters doing some truly despicable things, part of what makes THE FAVOURITE so fascinating is how it humanizes each of the three protagonists--not exactly justifying their actions, but certainly revealing qualities that cause seismic shifts in the audience's alliance. The roles are in almost constant flux over the course of the film, as the merciless Sarah, who never steps down from an argument and can cut down anyone and everyone in the room (her lacerating sparring with the pompous and cartoonishly over-dressed Harley--at one point taunting him with "Your mascara's running, would you like to go fix it?" before a nose-to-nose staredown that provokes him into a full-on tantrum--is priceless), becomes increasingly victimized by the scheming machinations of Abigail, who isn't nearly as sweet and innocent as she initially seems. Weisz is matched by Stone, but it takes the entire film to realize the true impact of Colman's performance, letting it simmer to a boil for nearly two hours before a haunting final scene that's hard to shake, especially once Elton John's achingly appropriate, original harpsichord version of "Skyline Pigeon" plays over the closing credits (this is the second Lanthimos project for Weisz and Colman, both of whom were in THE LOBSTER). Beautifully shot, razor-sharp, and unabashedly rude and vulgar (no other film in 2018 throws the C-word around with such wild abandon), THE FAVOURITE is another masterwork from Lanthimos, who has firmly cemented his place in the upper echelon of the world's great contemporary filmmakers.


Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

Latest Images

Trending Articles





Latest Images