Warwick Marshall’s review published on Letterboxd:
It has been too long since I've had a trip to the cinema. While I used to try to go at least once a week, I had spinal surgery at the end of August and sitting in a cinema seat for several hours was just too painful for me until recently. The last film I saw in the cinema was 'A Star is Born' several months ago, and I spent a fair portion of that film having to stand near the screening's entrance to give my spine a break from sitting. It was a great relief therefore, that I was able to sit [comfortably] through the entirety of Yorgos Lanthimos' 'The Favourite', and what a film to return to the cinema for!
I have been a big fan of this director since I first came across his truly brilliant and hilarious satire of the dating world, 'The Lobster'. Not long before seeing 'The Favourite', I had admittedly been let down greatly by his film 'Alps', though having now seen 'The Favourite' as well as the majority of his prior films, I feel as though 'Alps' is likely an anomaly.
'The Favourite' is by far the best looking film in Yorgos Lanthimos' repertoire, with stunning production value having clearly been injected into the sets, the costume design and make-up all coupled with the best display of cinematography among his other films to create some truly magnetic imagery. On top of these flawlessly executed aspects, we are also provided a performance by Nicolas Hoult far superior to anything he has ever done before, an Olivia Coleman performance as brilliant as is to be expected from this fantastic actress, and a show-stealing rivalry performed to perfection by Rachel Weiss and Emma Stone, the latter pulling off an English accent so convincing, I almost forget she was American (high praise coming from someone born and raised in England). This may not seem like much, but when you take into account how woefully bad the majority of American actors are at convincingly pulling off English accents, I am always impressed when I come across one that can.
As far as I am aware, this is the only Yorgos Lanthimos film I have seen which he did not actually write, and it is clear that this is a different type of film for him in so far as it being an elaborate period piece with a clearly vast budget, as well as it being the only film of his in which the characters feel [at least to some extent] real, as opposed to his signature bizarre, monotone direction of his actor's performances. Despite this, there are more than enough idiosynracies that very much make this feel like a Lanthimos' film, regardless of its notably less surreal tone and nature.
Though the film still very much contains the dark, satirical hilarity common with the Greek director's work, I was impacted quite heavily by a surprisingly sombre and saddenning final 15 or so minutes. While for the most part, this felt like Lanthimos' most straightforward film, it was these last few minutes which reminded me that it was still a film with much to say. The film has a lot to say about masculinity, about the nature of truth in relationships, and blind politics, all weaving together on a grander scale than what is immediately apparent.
The film is set during a period of time in which nobleman covered their faces in heavy make-up, while wearing ridiculously large wigs and overly elaborate garments. Within this story, these men are often shown trying to assert their masculinity and dominance over women who are ultimately [unbeknownst to them], far more cunning and powerful than they, often making these men come across as absolute fools in their self assurance of their masculinity, despite coming across as anything but masculine, while these women are portrayed in a far more in control and dominant manner.
The film also centres around a rivalry between two women (Emma Stone & Rachel Weiss), battling for the affection and trust of Queen Ann (Olivia Coleman). While Rachel Weiss' character is often [seemingly] quite cruel and unpleasant toward the Queen, she is [in some ways] honest with her, where Emma Stone's character is more pandering and overtly affectionate toward her. It is through this dynamic where the film makes statements about honesty vs pandering in relationships and whether either really lead to happiness. It is also this dynamic and theme which lend toward the theme of blind politics in the film. The two rivalling women are fighting for the affection of Queen Ann, not for the benefit of the Queen, but for ultimately selfish ends. Rachel Weiss abuses this relationship for her own political agenda, while Emma Stone abuses it to reclaim the power which was taken from her. Queen Ann doesn't seem to have a clue, or any interest in what is actually going on in her own country, and while one of these two women is essentially feeding her propoganda by withholding information from her while informing her of only what she wishes to, the other seems to urge the queen in the opposite direction as a means to gain political allies and force her rival away. The Queen never really knows what she is doing, and is largely influenced by this selfish tug of war.
While I feel as though I will need to watch this one again to further develop my thoughts (I couldpotentially be WAY off track), I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and can't wait to see what this director dishes out next.