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The Favourite is fast becoming just that this awards season. It’s cleaning up at those ceremonies that have happened and dominating the nominations of those still pending. The escalation of this nutty slab of period fruitcake from Yorgos Lanthimos – from Venice chatter-point to Oscars frontrunner – is enough to restore your faith in the whole shaky process.
Loosely based on real events, The Favourite is set in the court of a bedraggled, gout-ridden Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in the early 18th century. There, life is as trussed up and dazzling as its ruler is crippled and miz. The men wear vertiginous wigs and slather on the makeup. They race ducks and pelt each other with fruit for sport. The women are scrubbed clean of slap and crack on with running the country. Or, specifically, Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) does: the Queen’s oldest friend and confidante who takes decisions where her flummoxed lover cannot.
Enter Abigail (Emma Stone), Sarah’s down-on-her-luck cousin, seeking employment. Sarah takes pity (“I have a thing for the weak,” she says, ominously) and she gradually works her way up from scullery maid to Sarah’s deputy to Sarah’s successor between the Queen’s sheets. Which of them will prevail? Which will ensure their own security, potentially jeopardising that of the country (at war with the French) in the process?
It’s an utterly gripping battle: domestic but high stakes, racked with tragedy yet very, very funny. It features the best swearing in a film in many years, and the worst wedding night potentially ever. It’s a bleak and brilliant portrait of the loneliness of power and the luxury of mortality in such a brutal world. The performances are exceptional (a shout out, also, for Nicholas Hoult as the impossibly pompous leader of the opposition), the script taut and endlessly surprising, soundtrack spot on, costumes (Sandy Powell) lush and Robbie Ryan’s lensing batty yet revealing.
Colman and Weisz both featured in Lanthimos’s first English language feature, The Lobster; this is cut from the same cloth but blinged up considerably. For all the ruffs and Peter Greenaway excess, it succeeds for its relatability. Everybody knows what it is to prostitute yourself for advancement in some way. To spare a loved one truths you ought to share. To shirk social responsibility in favour of favour. To gorge yourself on cake and pets when loss and loneliness overcome you. The wildest ride is sometimes the sagest.
Source: The Guardian
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