It seems that these days, most of these cinematic costume dramas get overlooked as nothing more than a perfectly portioned meal for Academy Awards voters. Despite it appearing to be another entry into that section of your film collection, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite stands out as something much more under the guise a beautiful period piece.
The Favourite, originally titled The Balance of Power, is an episodic story separated into eight chapters and set against the War of the Spanish Succession in the court of Queen Anne. In this farcical tragedy, Anne’s affections are held by Lady Sarah Churchill of Marlborough, who effectively runs Great Britain in the Queen’s stead, at least until her cousin Abigail arrives and attempts to take over the fragile Queen’s favor.
The script and score are both phenomenal. I find it so odd that the credited screenwriters have almost no other credits to their name when this work might be the best of the year. It’s also interesting that the film was first written 20 years ago, but allegedly wasn’t made due to the fact that there is no male lead.
The three performances of 2018 live within the walls of this film. Let’s break down each one.
Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne is my personal favorite performance of 2018. She’s transformative in her turn as this often ill and ever-changing monarch. She will give Lady Gaga and Glenn Close a run for their money in the race for Best Actress this year. Colman is an underrated actress who delivers both madness and grace in the face of the tragedy that was Queen Anne’s life.
I will be VERY surprised if both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz don’t knab Best Supporting Actress nominations this year. I’ll be even more surprised if one of them doesn’t win. While I did love Stone in 2016’s La La Land, I feel like her performance as the hidden viper Abigail is what really sets her apart as a great actress. I’ve long admired her work, but she is given the chance to really shine here by concealing her character’s true nature until the perfect moment arises.
I have yet to see Rachel Weisz give a bad performance. I just feel like that needs to be stated. Her performance as Sarah Churchill, the cold advisor and secret lover to Queen Anne, is presented as both a conniving character and a sympathetic character, which is hard to do. You feel what she feels as the power struggle between Sarah and Abigail develops, whether that be her frustration, determination or sadness.
After seeing The Lobster in 2015, I delved into learning more about Lanthimos’ style and direction, but after seeing the masterpiece that is The Favourite, I am ready to sink my hooks into every aspect of his work. I will have to pick up his other movies as soon as possible, and the next time he makes a film, I’ll be first in line.
Both Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone referred to this film as a high stakes version of 2004’s Mean Girls. I would have to agree. Thanks to Lanthimos’ careful direction and the swell of a powerful score, this period piece is transformed into a film that has the power to strike a perfect harmony between a Shakespearean comedy and a pure tragedy. It’s a must-see for those who loves awards contenders, but also for those who want to see a powerful, funny, female-led film that still feels relevant in our times.