“…Lanthimos’ brilliant yet unashamedly vulgar film well and truly puts the period in period drama.“
Yorgos Lanthimos’ last two big screen outings, The Lobster and The Killing of a Secret Deer, were both peculiar and sinister in their own way, yet both pieces, as entertaining and engaging as they were, felt a little overly self-indulgent and peculiar for peculiar’s sake at times.
With The Favourite, on the other hand, the Director seems to have successfully harnessed his trademark quirky approach much more effectively here, anchoring it within a recognised historical context and an altogether more conventional film narrative.
Queen Anne is an emotionally fragile and rather unhinged woman. Maddened by much historic personal sorrow and ongoing health issues in her life, she cuts a frequently tragic figure.
Despite being a woman of considerable power and influence, Queen Anne’s personal issues and deep insecurities offer up the perfect scenario for any wannabe confidence trickster to take advantage of a woman whose deep-rooted jealousy and need for reassurance frequently results in irrational shrieking fits directed at whomever may be closest to her at any given time.
Her closest friend and personal ally, Lady Sarah, advises her and guides her through both her personal challenges and any important matters of the state. Though a little dysfunctional at times, it’s a convenient and largely symbiotic relationship and one which most importantly maintains a level of decorum around the palace.
The arrival of a young servant girl of some ambition, however, will gradually come to undermine Lady Sarah’s position in what quickly descends into a wicked game of one up-man-ship between the conniving pair.
Lanthimos’ film is as shocking, darkly humorous and at times unnerving as you might expect. Emma Stone is excellent as the treacherous young upstart, Abigail, whilst Rachel Weisz is as good as I’ve seen her in many years as the Queen’s chief advisor and confidant, Lady Sarah, bringing back fond memories of Rowan Atkinson’s Black Adder III character, and the largely self-serving ‘relationship’ that he would always ensure existed between himself and the congenital buffoon, The Prince Regent.
The main plaudits, however, are being heaped upon Olivia Colman, and rightly so. Her performance as Queen Anne is deliciously deranged yet achingly melancholic. Surrounded by 17 house rabbits – one to compensate for each of the children that she has tragically lost during her doleful life – her emotional and mental decline is superbly captured by Colman, further cementing her growing status as one of the finest and most versatile British actresses of this generation.
Lanthimos predictably lays his trademark oddity on thick. Unflattering low slung camera angles unashamedly look – metaphorically-speaking – up the skirts and noses of the film’s chief protagonists. This, together with frequent unsettling 180 degree rapid camera pans and the use of barrel-edged fish eye lenses all goes together to create a highly unconventional view of life in the court of the country’s head Monarch. Indeed, Lanthimos’ vision brilliantly depicts a sort of crazed and hedonistic existence that one might not normally associate with the higher echelons of the aristocracy.
Never a Director to shy away from the grotesque, the vomit excrement and blood unsurprisingly flows freely. Pride and Prejudice this is not.
Lanthimos’ brilliant yet unashamedly vulgar film well and truly puts the period in period drama.