Yorgos Lanthimos is back and is coming back with a vengeance. His obsession with Greek mythology has followed him throughout all of his previous films and it does seem to lack here either. As a fan of his past features, he is bringing the old team back together in the form of Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz with the addition of Emma Stone into the mix. If there is one director that excites me more than most, it is Lanthimos. Considering The Favourite is taking up most of the spots in this year’s awards, it’s only right to see what the critics are raving about.
The Favourite takes place in the early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), governs the country in her stead. When a new servant, Abigail (Emma Stone), arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Amongst the rivalry, England is at war with the French, duck racing and pineapple eating is thriving. Can Queen Anne cope under all of the pressure or does she crack and retreat to all of her bunnies?
Yorgos Lanthimos; with a name like that, you would be right to think that he could possibly be a Greek god of cinema. With his previous work capturing the attention of most from The Lobster to The Killing of a Sacred Deer, it’s about time that he is at the forefront of this year’s Oscars. Lanthimos has a clear style and technique, throughout the years he has been perfecting his craft and it shows within The Favourite. The frequent implementation of super wide angle shots allows the scene to be set whilst also taking you into the story. You see the beauty of the surroundings whilst appreciating the acting prowess from Stone, Weisz and Coleman. He takes risks and sways away from the standard forms of story-telling. He throws all of the rules of cinema out the window and does it his way, and it works. Looking at the setting, it maybe morphed by the angles, lenses and equipment used throughout but when a director cleverly orchestrates such a piece, you ignore those factors. You appreciate the intricate details from how you usually would from a close-up. This is not your typical period drama. Once Lanthimos grabs a hold of something, he runs with it and makes it his own.
Moving away from Lanthimos’ technical brilliance, he wouldn’t have been able to create a visually enticing story without Olivia Coleman. She leads the way as Queen Anne. Her performance is exquisite in all its raw and sometimes ugly forms. Lanthimos’ style is further expressed through the way his leads express their dialogue. It may seem odd to most but Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara cleverly weaved together a script that added punch. The humour is a desired taste but strikes a cord, adding to the setting and time period. Stone and Weisz creates equally complex characters with layers that captivate your attention. All of what was written may not be historically accurate but watching duck racing is high entertainment in my books.
The Favourite is filled with hidden meanings and takes concentration beyond belief but once you gather the rhythm and tempo of Lanthimos’s direction, you will feel the story he is intricately trying to create. Put the crudeness and sexual gestures to one side, this might just be the directors most trenchant and relevant work to date.