Directed by: Yorgios Lanthimos Written by: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
The Favorite is at least the second film of the year in which a rising auteur attempted to put their stamp on a script they did not write. While First Man was a blatantly questionable vessel for Damien Chazelle to invest his talents in, the match between The Favorite and Yorgios Lanthamos is a good one. While the film marks a break from the extreme-deadpan approach he used in The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, it’s nonetheless a work that includes Lanthimos’ signatures of provocatively placed violence and black comedy.
Well, that’s the impression one gets from the film’s trailer.
The trailer presents The Favorite as a film all dressed up in the pomp of British period dramas, that nonetheless goes entirely off the rails.
In the trailer, the off the rails moment comes with roar of a single gun shot. When watched in the context of the whole film, however, this scene is not nearly as powerful. It does not mark a break from realism, nor does any one moment in The Favorite.
The film’s script essentially tells the tale of a battle for power between an established, aristocratic Lady in Waiting (Rachel Weisz) and her new, more class-ambiguous rival (Emma Stone), taking place while England under Queen Anne is fighting France in the War of the Spanish Succession. Entertaining as this premise might be if presented as a short story, the film’s run time drains it of energy and keeps it within the confines of realism. This is not to say the film is bereft of eccentric moments. Its early scenes, which introduce the characters, have a degree of quirky charm to them (especially the bit witht he ducks). The Queen (Olivia Coleman), is also one of the film’s strengths. She is eccentric in ways that subvert expectations, and her insistence on making policy decisions despite not engaging in political thinking provides for some comic skewering of monarchism.
Viewers attuned to the subtle qualities of directors may find something of Lanthimos in The Favorite. Be warned, however, if you are not at least equally motivated by the prospect of seeing 17th century characters discuss slow moving military and court politics as you are by the prospect of seeing Lanthimos’s sinister artistry, this is not necessarily the film for you.