Let’s just say ‘most accessible film’ doesn’t always mean ‘best film’, or at least in this case.
Synopsis: Early 18th century England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant Abigail arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfill her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way. (Fox Searchlight)
Starring: Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone
Writers: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Rating: 14A (Canada)/R (United States)
Running Time: 121mins
The Favourite has been a highly anticipated film, amongst cinephiles and casual moviegoers alike. With its endless quantity of rave reviews, a Monty-Python esque sense of humor and cast members such as Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, there is so much for everyone to be excited for. However, if there is one thing that’s really hooking the cinephile audience in, it is auteur Yorgos Lanthimos. His films are, lets just say, out there. Whether you are talking the incestual relationships in Dogtooth, or Colin Farrell ‘eenie-meenie-miny-mo’ to decide which family member he will shoot in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, Lanthimos has been one to make films that are hard for general audiences to digest. Is this any different? Yes, but it doesn’t feel as effective as some of the other work he’s done.
That’s not to say this film is poor, because there is some pretty good things going for it. First off, it is absolutely worth crediting this film for having a unique style, that can’t really be compared to any other similar period piece. The story here is very fast paced and rowdy, which definitely keeps the appeal to a certain extent. There is also some excellent stylistic choices here – Lanthimos’ choice to use an aspect ratio that has a border around the frame is interesting, and does a great job at setting itself apart from other, similar films, as well as his own. The camerawork here is also extremely notable – the choice to use rapid movements and whip pans opposed to cutting is definitely brilliant, and the visual aspects of the film in the least keep you entertained.
The acting is also pretty good, but it’s hard to say that it stands out in a year chock-full of way more transformative ones. None of the actors really take a unique approach at their characters, and they feel similar, but Colman, Weisz and Stone as Queen Anne, Lady Sarah, and Abigail respectively are definitely intriguing on-screen presences.
Despite everything else going on, this is a film that is brought down by one major issue, which is the structure of the story itself. It never feels like there is any progression or plot whatsoever. Though this isn’t always a bad thing, it is in the context of this film. It is often difficult to interpret whatever was happening or not happening at any point over the course of the film. Sure, the story of competition between Lady Sarah and Abigail is intriguing at the core, but it becomes so repetitive and redundant to a point that tuning out at any point will not lead to the loss of anything significant. It’s just the same cycle of overt raunchy humor and rivalry over and over again. After a while. it loses its freshness and becomes stale.
While The Favourite’s rave reviews make sense, unfortunately if it’s premise doesn’t work the first time it is presented, it absolutely won’t work for you at any point as the film’s repetitive structure only stales its raunchy humor and lessens the impact of what was an intriguing story at its core.