Watson Reviews: The Favourite (Spoiler Free)

Director Yorgos Lanthimos is something of an acquired taste. I’m not sure his work on The Lobster led me to acquire it.

I skipped his follow up project, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, but upon seeing the trailers for The Favourite, I was actually surprised to see his name as the director. It did not seem to fit into his surreal, esoteric filmmaking style. Given the film’s buzz, I couldn’t pass on this one.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT:

During the reign of Queen Anne, England is at war with France. Anne is advised by her friend and confidant, Sarah Churchill, who is very much the secret ruler of the kingdom.

When Sarah’s cousin, Abagail Hill, comes to court seeking employment due to her family’s fall from grace, palace intrigue ensues as Abagail and Sarah vie for the favor of the Queen.

Or…the FAVOUR of the Queen…

WHAT WORKED:

  • The acting was sublime. Emma Stone (Amazing Spider-Man) and Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) we’re so much fun to watch as they schemed and plotted to rise in station at the expense of the other. Some of the scenes could have been a little too over the top with lesser actresses, but the pair nailed every comical moment. Olivia Colman (Hot Fuzz) was also spectacular as the put upon monarch who lived unaware that she was a pawn in the game of her closest advisors. Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Days of Future Past) rounded out the cast effectively as the foppish and plotting leader of the opposition party in Parliament. Great chemistry and dynamic performances makes this movie what it is. One interesting note is the question of why Coleman is being hyped as lead actress in the Oscar race. She’s clearly a supporting actress to the two more famous members of the cast. If she is onscreen more, it is simply as a foil for the shenanigans of each would-be favourite. It feels like this was a status granted to her to try to maximize the film’s chances of winning in the lead and supporting actress category. Kind of like Christian Bale being promoted as a supporting role in The Fighter even though he was every bit the lead actor as Marky Mark.
  • The camera angles were interesting. This is one area that I actually like the work of Lanthimos. He gives you quirky angles or unusual lens shaping; one really cool ovalish lens made for an effective scene. It’s something you don’t see often and it makes things a little more interesting than the same old shots.
  • It is a moment in history worth exploring. In the 1700s, the largest empire in the world was being ruled by a woman. And that woman was a puppet ruler…of a second woman. And then a THIRD woman intervened to try to influence to rule of England. That’s something worthy of a movie!

WHAT DIDN’T WORK:

  • I wish it been directed by someone else. I can’t say I don’t like Lanthimos at all, but this was not a “weird” movie like his others. It was a smart script with great acting. Yet, he still felt the need to insert too much of the quirkiness that might have worked in past films like The Lobster, but were out of place here. It hurt the film quite a bit.
  • The pacing was so tedious. Still an issue with the style of Lanthimos, he lingers on shots way to long and the film drags. I’m all for holding a long shot for effect. Alfonso Cuarón (Birdman) is an absolute master of this. But when Cuarón does it, it accentuates the moment. When Lanthimos does it, it often feels like he forgot to turn the camera off and delivers the cinematic equivalent of a butt dial.
  • The dry wit was at times more dry than wit.  I like dry wit, but this one…while funny… rarely rose above providing a mild guffaw. This is not a big knock as there were very many mild guffaws, and the script was sharp, but you are left thinking it could have been funnier while retaining its sophisticated wit. I recommend watching with a glass of white wine.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

It will get play come Oscar time (deservedly for the actresses in the film) but I will be disappointed if this wins Best Picture. It was a good movie but could have been as great as the critics seem to believe.

If someone like Tim Hooper (The Kong’s Speech) had directed it, I think it could have been perfect. Sadly, Yorgos Lanthimos put too much of his odd stamp on it and the styles simply didn’t match.

Overall, I give The Favourite a score of 8Fat Germans With Thin Penises out of 10.

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