The Favourite is a film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. It takes place over several months while Queen Anne was in power in 18th century England. The film has received raving reviews and 10 Oscar nominations.
Technical feast for the eyes
The technical aspect of the film is what sets it apart from more conventional period pieces like The Remains of the day and puts in the same league as the King’s Speech and Barry Lyndon in which the directors used unexpected visual techniques such as extremely long zooms or wide angles to tell the story.
The film contains many fish-eye lens shots which are rare in period dramas, and just rare in general, unless used for comical effect. Most people associated fisheye lens shots with horror or absurd situations because of the distortion it causes in the frame. The director cleverly positions the characters to help us gain a sense of the space.
There’s also an abundant use of long dissolves in this film culminating in the final scene. Be prepared for a long 3 minute dissolve of a few images on top of each other. It reminded me of Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers which had extended red dissolves.
The music also creeps in in many scenes and the editing matches its rhythm.
Finally, there’s beautiful lighting and slow motion shots.
Story, meh despite the unexpected twist
The story revolves around three women. Queen Anne (played by Olivia Coleman) suffers from pain mostly in her legs. She has her favourite, confident and adviser, Lady Marlborough (played by Rachel Weisz). Lady Marlborough is a towering force and often assumes the queen’s duties, particularly when she is ill. All this would have continued uninterrupted except when one woman (played by Emma Stone) tries to regain her status of lady by becoming the queen’s favourite.
The conflict between Weisz and Stone’s character over who will win over the queen is what propels the film forward.
I suspect what will surprise a lot of the viewers is the lesbian aspect of the relationship between these women. And I suspect that’s why the film is so well reviewed. It exposes this in a very matter of fact way. It’s rare to see this in a Hollywood production.
My verdict: 6 out of 10
I’ve never been a huge fan of period films but that can be mitigated by a smart and good story. That’s not the case for me here. Although the acting was outstanding, I never felt emotionally invested in these three protagonists’ stories. They are so over-the-top and power hungry that they always come across as devoid of any real human feelings.
The film is divided in 8 chapters from what I can recall. Not sure what it adds to the film but each title card is written with long spaces between the letters. Not sure what the point was of that as well. Showing how absurd the period was? Pun intended! The film moves along thanks to fancy camera moves and clever editing but could have been trimmed here and there particularly in its final 20 minutes.
Overall the film is too witty at times for its own good and too dark. It wasn’t my cup of tea.
If the film had not come out during the awards season, I wonder if it would have gotten as much attention as it did. After seeing it, I suspect the film is a strong contender in the editing, costume and photography Oscar categories but will have an enormous rival in Roma. I don’t think it will win in any categories.