Yorgos Lanthimos’ dramedy THE FAVOURITE (2018) is missing a compelling story
A period piece set in 18th century England, The Favourite follows Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) who tends to the Queen’s health. However when a new servant arrives, Abigail (Emma Stone), bonds are thrown for a loop.
Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the more unique writers/directors out there with a certain signature in each of his films which lets you know of his presence. The way he crafts his projects to where everything from the cinematography, score, performances, and editing works together to create a specific tone and unsettling yet engaging is fantastic. However with The Favourite I don’t think Lanthimos has quite nailed a good story as well as he has nailed all of the technical elements of the film. The story itself and the overall tone failed to grab me in the beginning and as time progressed I only got further away from being invested in these characters. It’s a difficult story to explain beyond the premise above because I personally didn’t find much of value to really pick out of it. Quite a bit happens overall in the story however I didn’t respond to much of it at all and wasn’t compelled by any of the drama nor the subtle comedy.
The tone is heavily driven by Lanthimos’ directing, however rather than drawing me into the story it pushed me away unlike in his last project The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017). He does a great job at crafting this unsettling and somewhat uncomfortable tone throughout his films, generally it adds to the experience but here I found it to be a wall stopping me from getting into it. It’s most certainly uniquely presented and fits within his signature I mentioned above but the plot unfolds in a way that didn’t entice me to pay attention or want to find out what was to happen text.
As far as the casting goes, Lanthimos has undoubtedly picked the correct stars to fill the three most prominent roles within this story. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone are the perfect choices for their respective roles as it really doesn’t take much imagination to visualise them as these characters. The personalities of the characters fit very well within the range of the actors and as such you get three strong performances out of them. As much as I didn’t respond to the story as a whole there are handful of moments in which the actors do shine through the subpar story to execute some well delivered dialogue between each other. They unfortunately couldn’t get me any more invested in the story but that’s really not on them.
The technical side of the film is where Lanthimos’ style stands out and it’s exquisite. The cinematography helmed by Robbie Ryan is more than worthy of the Academy Award nomination it received because nearly every scene in here is composed beautifully. It made what was otherwise a quite disappointing film beautiful to look at. The score in here is electrifying at times and fits in with the visuals really well. The editing too is exceptional and works well in combination with the sweeping cinematography.
In the end I understand the Academy Awards nominations received by The Favourite and judging by the fact that the screenplay received a nomination this story may have not registered with me as it did the majority. The performances are on point and the technical elements of the film are incredibly strong but the story is where it all falls apart for me.