Yorgos Lanthimos has established himself as an extremely talented director who is a master of surreal dark comedies. His work has received comparisons to Stanley Kubrick not only for the unique way he constructs his films, but also for his scores which feature a variety of classical music.
In contrast to The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, where idiosyncratic dialogue created a very strange atmosphere, his latest work The Favourite is filled with a manner of speaking that is opposite to those film but still unique in its own right. This is especially apparent when observing how Rachel Weisz delivers her lines: often rapidly and filled with wit.
The film is a period piece that revolves around an ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) who relies heavily on her favourite companion, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), and doesn’t seem to care that her country is engaged in a war with France. Lady Sarah is more than happy with her situation as, given Queen Anne’s condition, she is the de facto leader and tries to push through motions in court as if she is relaying what the Queen has said.
Circumstances change soon after the arrival of Lady Sarah’s cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), who is hoping to find work after the crumbling of her family. Taking an instant disliking to Abigail, Lady Sarah begins to passive aggressively taunt her and assigns her demeaning jobs.
This passive aggression slowly becomes not so passive when Abigail makes a remedy for one of the Queen’s ailments, and quickly garners the Queen’s fondness. Soon the two cousins find themselves in bitter competition for the Queen’s affection. While it is immediately clear how nasty Lady Sarah can be, Abigail proves to be crafty in her own right.
Their battle of wills only helps to highlight the film’s satirical look at upper crust society. The depiction of the ruling class as a troupe of clowns has Lanthimos stamped all over it. The script by Deborah Davis and Australian writer Tony McNamara takes great joy in portraying the wealthy as individuals who look ridiculous and spend their time betting on duck races. Their behaviour, especially in court, paints them as idiots who happen to have power over the masses.
The Favourite continues to prove that Lanthimos’ trademark torch of weirdness still burns brightly. It skillfully pokes fun at period dramas and the characters who populate them. All this makes for a film that is outrageous and extremely funny.