We are now firmly in award territory and over the next couple of weeks, and months, I will be releasing a number of blog posts covering the Award Season, with: reviews and information regarding the nominations and who I think will win. ‘The Favourite’ seemed a very good place to start for a number of reasons, including: it’s stellar cast (which contained two Oscar winners- Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone and Golden Globe Winner, Olivia Colman;) a fantastic director (in the form of Yorgos Lanthimos who previously wrote and directed: ‘The Lobster’, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’ and ‘Dogtooth’;) some fabulous early reviews from almost everybody, (which has lead to it’s success so far with nearly 300 combined wins and nominations, 10 of those wins coming at the British Independent Film Awards) and of course the fact it has been released before a lot of the other award contenders. Therefore, following it’s release on New Year’s Day I couldn’t wait to see whether it would be as good as I hoped.
What is it about?
Set in the early 18th century, ‘The Favourite’ portrays the, partially, true story of the two women who fight for the admiration of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman.) Lady Sarah of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) is: a well-educated, manipulative, childhood-friend of Queen Anne with a great deal of sway over the Queen’s decisions due to their bond of trust and Anne’s generally unfit state (both physically and to rule- in the sense that she lacks the authority of an assertive ruler.) This pairing goes generally unchallenged until Abigail (Emma Stone), Sarah’s cousin- who was once a lady but has since fallen on hard times, turns up at the Queen’s palace looking for a job. Quickly Abigail progresses into the Queen’s favour, leading to the outbreak of a furious feud between Sarah and Abigail, with a constant power game being played for influence in the Queen’s chamber.
What did I think?
I must admit this film is unlike any I have seen before; as it takes the period drama genre and almost seems to satirise it with how different it is from the serious tones usually set by these films. Although there is a clear string of serious subject matter running throughout, the often outlandish comedy gives it a real contemporary feel. For example, in the midst of a heated conversation between Sarah and Abigail, whilst they are pigeon shooting, Abigail shoots a pigeon and it’s blood splatters across the face of Sarah almost forcing you to laugh. This kind of comedy happens throughout in often overt and sometimes more subtle ways; that you may imagine from the outset would break up the flow of the film, but instead actually added to the narrative. Subsequently, I found myself laughing the whole way through and still heavily invested in each of the character’s plights.
A key positive for this film are the characters. Through a mix of superb writing and acting; all of the characters we meet, even for a very brief time, seem to be distinguished as clear individuals with unique personalities. The main trio at the head of the film were all fantastic. Specifically I liked the fact that their duplicity and manipulative ability actually managed to fool us as audience members, which kept us guessing throughout as to what was going to happen next and constantly left us in doubt about who we could trust. This made the film exciting in almost every moment, as you continuously ran scenarios of what might happen next and almost every time you were proved wrong and presented with something even more exhilarating. Moreover, the fact the cinematography throughout was often weird and disproportional, could be seen as an attempt to disorientate the audience just as the rest of the narrative was doing. The same could also be said for the simplistic but very effective music which rose and fell to unseen climaxes. Potentially the fact I knew nothing about Queen Anne’s story before may have been the main cause of my engrossment; but the liberties taken with truth probably meant even with an expanse of knowledge I would have felt the same way.
Although coming out of the film I didn’t think it was perfect, actually trying to articulate these thoughts into negative comments has proved exceedingly difficult. I was never bored, the characters were good, the narrative was fantastic, the ending was satisfying, it was shot well, it used sound well and yet something just didn’t seem quite right. Possibly this could have been because it completely subverted my expectations; but I think it was probably because of the number stories we were witnessing and the fact that although we may want to, we will not see a definitive ending for how each of them played out. Upon reflection, I feel they were all necessary and contributed in their own way to the ending of the film; nevertheless, with such a breadth of characters we had invested in, it would be interesting to see how there stories played out. However, me theorising what may happen next, is exactly what the film would want as I have continued to think about it long after my viewing.
My Rating: 9/10
Despite being almost perfect in all areas, the fact I didn’t think it was perfect when I left the cinema means it has failed in at least one respect. However, this film is both technically brilliant, as well as a joy to watch and I would heartily recommend it to all. Therefore despite it being guaranteed as the first film I watched this year, ‘The Favourite’ shoots straight to number one where I believe it may stay for quite a while.
P.S. I watched ‘La La Land’ for a third time on New Years Eve and broke down in tears because once again I was overcome by the story’s mesmeric ability to captivate me and go on it’s emotional journey. Therefore after finding no faults on a third occasion I can do nothing else but promote it to the full 10/10.