Like The Lobster that is exactly what we get, even though The Favourite is slightly more accessible than the strange parable that was Lanthimos’s first English language film. The Favourite is dominated by the three leading ladies who all give powerhouse performances with Olivia Colman tipped for award success. It’s a film powered by three women, one of whom is a pawn in a psychological battle between two strong women. It makes for enthralling viewing to watch three great performances battle for supremacy on screen as two of them fight for the third’s favour, using whatever dastardly means springs to their deadly and deranged minds.
As enthralling as their battle is, the longer it goes on the more depressing it becomes as we watch two women essentially exploit a weak, frail and childlike Anne playing her as a mere pawn in their own psychological game. One begins to feel sympathy for way the Anne is exploited more than gripped by the psychological battle between Abigail (Emma Stone) and Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz). Colman really is perfect in the role, that’s high on melodrama, giving it an erratic vulnerability that highlights her character’s childlike and temperamental personality.
Yet it still feels that the film eventually peters out. Much of the film’s setting and costume design does brilliantly evoke the classic period dramas but the frequent use of the word cunt is an oddly jarring experience as it’s not one that’s common in stuffy costume dramas (but of course The Favourite isn’t your typical costume drama). At first, it feels rebellious and daring but when it begins to get tiresome and repetitive, losing all its sting, you just sit there thinking “Come on Yorgos…grow up”. This also relates to a lot of film’s raunchy humour which feels oddly awkward and shoe horned into a film that didn’t need it (on the other hand the absurdist humour is more rewarding comedically).
Where Yorgos Lanthimos excels is in the beauty of the film (with exception is the ghastly soundtrack). The longshots, extravagant costume and set design and the use of natural lighting is greatly reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s classic Barry Lyndon (which is also set during the 18th century). The film is good, but doesn't win my favour.