Updated: Mar 22, 2020
Labels fail to apply to "The Favourite," nominated as one of 2018's best comedies. Yes, scenes earn laughs, but many from painful nervousness rather than hilarious circumstances. With less focus on history-lesson education than projects like "The King's Speech," this look at British royalty emphases power plays and schemes along the lines of "Dangerous Liaisons."
It stands apart from many Royal Court stories by focusing on women, in this case Queen Anne and two competitors for the title label as her favorite helper. Emma Stone plays the new addition of an up-and-coming usurper. Her fellow cast members Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz re-team with director Yorgos Lanthimos from the dark and dystopic comedy "The Lobster." That track record and project reveal a lot about The Favourite and its mean-spirited look at the world.
It turns out the historical court society shown in "The Favourite" shares much in common with futuristic dystopian communities where constant battles bring out the worst in people. Director Lanthimos explored this idea brilliantly in "The Lobster," an insightful film that I admire without really wanting to watch again. I respect his acumen about human nature, butouch!
And while Queen Anne's court really existed and misses out on the fantasy trait required by the definition of dystopic, verbs like dehumanizing and fear-inducing suit the lives shown in her crazy world. Director Lanthimos once again demonstrates his deep understanding of the ways people bend and shape rules of behavior, and he also once again chooses brilliant actresses to get those points across.
All three lead actresses stand out in dynamic, sharply attuned performances. Olivia Coleman ostensibly gets lead status, which figures for a queen, but Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz come on with equal force and screen time. Past awards for Stone and Weisz already indicate their skills, while Coleman shows herself right up there able to stand out and take risks. Coleman, the lesser known box office name, looks familiar to admirers from her work in Broadchurch and other British television series. She fills the bigger screen dynamically, blending flamboyance with nuance, outrageousness with subtlety.
While some viewers may argue with "The Favourite's" often cruel tone, no one finds any room to downgrade its acting and superb production values.
This review was originally aired on 1/3/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/favourite#stream/0