Film director Yorgos Lanthimos’s fan-base continues to grow. After The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, he is now turning the British period drama upside down with The Favourite.
The Favourite is set in a gigantic palace where the men wear imposing wigs and several of the characters are based on English figures from the eighteenth century. Logic thus demands that you call this a British period drama. But something is not right. Both in terms of style and content, Yorgos Lanthimos has shaken up the conventions of the genre to such an extent that there is very little of them left.
There is no reason to lament this fact, however, because he has won the queen stage with flying colours, and that is what counts.
No men allowed
Instead of any men being involved in deciding the fate of the nation, three women are in charge. On paper, all the power lies with Queen Anne, but she is a disturbed woman with an inferiority complex, voracious gluttony, and both severe physical (debilitating gout) and mental (she lost seventeen children) agony.
Olivia Colman’s performance is simply brilliant, and she makes you both laugh out loud with her grotesquely infantile behaviour while eliciting your sympathy at the same time. An Oscar would be deserved. The unstable queen does whatever her confidante and lover Sarah (Rachel Weisz) whispers to her. This shrewd woman loves winning every power game with ease. But she realizes too late that one of her protégés covets her position: the no less calculating chambermaid Abigail (Emma Stone).
With absolutely ruthless passion and cruelty, the three women seduce, betray, blackmail, abuse, manipulate, and punish one another. Lanthimos does not film this by turns repulsive and incredibly funny spectacle in the traditional way. The strangest camera angles and 360-degree movements mock the debased behaviour of the rulers of the earth and create an occasionally uncomfortable atmosphere. The Favourite is never predictable, and Lanthimos even finds time for glorious slapstick. The cinematic year has only just begun and we already have a winner.