After transitioning his work from his native language to English, madcap Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has been making waves in the industry with his auteuristic style. His latest comedy The Favourite is a period drama which follows the trials and tribulations of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in the early 18th century. Suffering from gout, she becomes heavily reliant on her advisor Sarah (Rachel Weisz) to manage her affairs. When Sarah’s estranged cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace as a scullery maid, the Queen’s attention is soon divided, and a family feud ensues for her affection.
Normally Lanthimos would pen the screenplays of the pictures he directs, but on this occasion, the writing duties are picked up by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. However, his recognisable brand of storytelling and visual trademarks are very much at the forefront of the film. The production design is exquisite, as are the period costumes, and the filmmaker’s acute attention to detail is often seen through a fish-eye lens which suitably distorts the beauty of the scenery. Elegantly split into eight chapters, an episodic narrative begins as an eccentric comedy before slowly descending into tragic darkness as Sarah and Abigail attempt to outwit one another at every turn.
With an abundance of quite unnatural, expletive-laden dialogue, the script could prove challenging for lesser actors, but the central trio take to the material like ducks to water. Weisz and Stone trade verbal blows throughout and it’s a joy to watch them indulge in the movie’s absurdity, but it’s Olivia Colman who takes the crown. Segueing effortlessly from hilarity to heartache as Queen Anne’s physical and mental state deteriorates, she makes madness look so measured.
Dropping a heady dose of his quirk into a story plucked from the realms of British history, this is the director’s most accessible but arguably his strongest piece to date. It’s grandiose, it’s theatrical, it’s downright dotty, and with a towering triad of winning performances at the helm, The Favourite is a sure thing.