Yorgos Lanthimos is not a director who does not deal well with convention. His created worlds appear to be one thing and quickly morph into another laced with dark edges and all too honest realities. The story of Queen Anne and the tragedy which befalls her would be a dream for some directors seeking to make their mark within the realm of period drama. Lanthimos however is no ordinary director and The Favourite is anything but a normal period drama.
A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne, her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) perhaps the true bearer of power, governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne's ill health and mercurial temper. When Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, seeking for and lodgings from her relative Lady Sarah, she is sent to the scullery rather than the lush chambers a woman of her standing may be used to. She quickly manages to ascend the ranks and finds herself in the royal favour and subsequently becomes a third wheel in the pre existing relationship. The battle to be The Favourite is vicious and intense.
The three performances from Colman, Weisz and Stone are the best in recent memory for all three stars. Truly a trinitarian force as none of these roles could fully exist without the others doing their part so well. Central to the squabbling and clamber for affection is Colman who as Queen Anne flits between regal and child like in the blink of an eye. It is a magnificent performance that holds the attention and tugs at the heartstrings appropriately and without manipulation. She is the head of an Empire and yet not fully in control of her own affairs, her advice coming from those claiming to know what is best, but revealed to be self serving at every turn. Orbiting her with equal parts love and venom are Weisz and Stone, speaking to each other with such gentle yet biting intent. The verbal barbs thrown are fast paced and laden with not so subtle insults. They both are seeking power and influence, whether or not they truly have Anne’s undying affection is a but a secondary concern.
All three are chased around corridors by the constantly moving camera of Lanthimos, surrounded by a fish eye lens as if we are gazing in on enclosed animals whose drama is purely for our entertainment. This power struggle is for our amusement, even more so than for those caught up in the melee. These characters are our playthings and Lanthimos the grand puppeteer.
Awards have already been lavished upon this film and its cast. There will, I assume, be many more to come. This film is released right on the dawn of a New Year and at its end I fully expect to still be talking about how truly wonderful The Favourite is.
The Favourite opens on general release from 1st January 2019.