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Reviews » Theatrical Reviews » The Favourite
The Favourite
Fox Searchlight Pictures // R // December 7, 2018
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted December 7, 2018 | E-mail the Author
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The Favourite is Comedy Central's Another Period as art house satire, with the visual beauty and complexity of top of the crop luscious prestige costume dramas, directed by the surrealist master who brought you Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. In other words, it's a masterpiece, perhaps the most subversive and original piece of its kind since Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. Stuffy period melodramas love to depict British royal figures and members of the aristocracy as eloquent and smart power players, Shakespearean icons worthy of respect and admiration. Barry Lyndon and The Favourite understands that, just like any other time in human history, perhaps even more so during times when coming out of the right vagina gave one the awesome powers and responsibilities of ruling an entire country, the world is full of incompetents, screw-ups, backstabbers, miscreants, gits, narcissists, unsuccessful criminals, and successful suck-ups. Royal stupidity worthy of prime satire is not a 20th Century invention.

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), the child-like ruler of England, is trapped inside her castle with her pet bunnies, terrified of being found out as a fraud who has no idea how to strategize military offenses and balance the country's budget. Thankfully, she has her trusted no-nonsense confidante, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weizs), to take care of such pesky details that go into actually ruling an empire. The relationship between Anne and Sarah goes even deeper than the obvious co-dependence they showcase in public. What happens in private, that's for Abigail (Emma Stone), an opportunistic servant with a dubious past, to find out and exploit for her own nefarious purposes. Abigail's mission is to curry Anne's favor by becoming her new plaything as a last-ditch attempt to once again become the lady she was before her gambling-addicted father ruined her family name. So a passive aggressive All About Eve-style rivalry between Abigail and Sarah becomes inevitable, what is unexpected is the crazy and unpredictable ways it evolves as director Yorgos Lanthimos ratchets up the tension while miraculously holding onto a tone of mischeviously brutal satire.

This synopsis is only the tip of the iceberg. The Favourite is full of captivating twists and turns that should be experienced cold. Instead of applying a static and classic costume drama look, Lanthimos employs a more modern approach that bridges the gap between period and contemporary, as a tool for perhaps letting in the audience in on the fact that, despite the time and place, our leaders are never as smart and as elite as some of us might think they are. His use of fish eye lens shots are especially eye catching in the way they employ an eerie surrealism and unease to the film. The performances are tops all around, Nicholas Hault is especially hilarious as a smarmy and entitled landowner. Hault is known for playing nice guys, this is a part that probably would have gone to Jesse Eisenberg in a more typical project. The tension between Weizs and Stone is palpable, but the big star here is Colman, who perhaps puts on the most realistic depiction of an English ruler since Miranda Richardson's Elizabeth I in Blackadder II. She deserves every award that can be thrown her way, perhaps that will also make up for her terrific performance in the great morbid drama Tyrannosaur being ignored in 2011.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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