Discreet Charm of the Favourites ("The Favourite", Y. Lanthimos)

Originally posted on: ziher.hr

Release Date: 5.12.2018.

While the Vivaldi Viola D’amore Concerto in A Minor is playing in the background, the British queen Ana (Olivia Colman), in a swift, pompous voice, speaks with her favourite, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). “Love has limits,” says Sarah, to which the Queen conceits her “it should Not be so!”, establishing a thought that will be thoroughly explored during The Favourite.

In the last nine years, the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has been introduced himself to the world through a series of ironic thriller-drama filled with extraordinary simple fantasy concepts that take over the seemingly ordinary lives of people from the 21st century. The mere thought that the director could be taking on the historical drama and that the screenplay did not belong to him and his longtime collaborator Efthymisu Filippo at the first might sounds daunting. However, the final product we got is a hundred per cent Lanthimos, and the only frightening thing is that the director manages to be innovative in a rather limited genre and with a built career where the audience and critics have already thought they know him.

Who was up, now is down

The Favourite accompanies Queen Anne as one of the lesser-known monarchs of England who ruled at the beginning of the 18th century. The Queen is in pretty bad health, she gets weird rashes, has a sensitive stomach, and after losing at least twelve children during pregnancy or at birth her mental state is clearly not the best. So the land from the shadows is run by lady Sarah, her close friend and skilled manipulator. Life looks great for Sarah until her cousin’s arrival, the former aristocrat Abigail (Emma Stone) who, after the bad mare has found her family, is looking for any kind of job. Soon Abigail quickly starts her rise from the position of the kitchen maid to the potential new favourite of Queen Anne.

Photo: facebook.com/TheFavouriteMovie/

About Love and Pineapples

Screenwriter Deborah Davis to whom The Favourite was first to work has developed a strong drama with three elaborate, intriguing protagonists, hard to judge which should be the central figure of the film. Sarah and Abigail are two personalities on the opposite side of the spectrum of action at every moment of the film, no matter whatever they are doing. Abigail comes from a very bad place, has a dark past and innocent and somewhat childish ways of trying to reach a high position. Yet everything about Abigail is fake, her manners, her charity, and even her infinite love for the Queen.

On the other hand, Sarah, who is at the height of her strength and manipulates the Queen, is most sincere. Yes, her modes of action are sharp and unconventional, but she knows her place. Even though the love Sarah provides to the Queen has limits, all the feelings she has for the queen are at least sincere. Queen Anne and her spoiled, pompous, neurotic behaviour, however initially are leaving the impression of farse, but after a while, this character gets her foundation in the very dark past.

Although hierarchical in the highest position, the Queen is still slightly more suppressed in the film, serving as a catalyst for the action as the time is given to Abigail and Sarah in their bidding. In addition to all of the above, the screenplay by Deborah Davis is one of the few that flawlessly passes four great feminist narrative quality tests (Bechdel, Landau, Villarreal, Peirce).

Photo: facebook.com/TheFavouriteMovie/

About the monarchy and oranges

When it comes to filmmaking, several authentic tropes of Lanthimos were lost in the process of adapting this specific scenario to the film. The eighteenth century obviously did not correspond to the milky-pastel colour palette that we were accustomed to, and the authentic ironic monotonous speech had to disappear in order to express the significant emotional differences of the protagonists. In the end, it isn’t a big thing because The Favourite radiates with irony, weirdness, and scenes inspired by Stanley Kubrick.

The weirdness that pushes the film to a simple fantasy remedy this time is derived through petty, casual details. So queen Anne wears eggplant earrings or her makeup and looks reminiscent of a badger. Noblemen at the court enjoy the races of the goose or the throwing of oranges (ironically the historical queen Anna inherited the position from William III, who was also called William of Orange). The Best Lanthimos moment in the film is certainly the scene in which we expect lady Sarah to dance with noble Masham (Joe Alwyn) waltz. Instead of the fancy, classical dance, in this scene, Lanthimos serves us a futuristic hybrid between hip-hop, tango and Waltz.

Photo: facebook.com/TheFavouriteMovie/

Although the irony is partly rooted in the scenario, acting performances are the ones that add up to the depth of the moment. So, for example, the scene where Abigail, from a sublime position, addresses Sarah and proudly tells her to leave the room because she expects her maid to bring some fruit called pineapple and sounds fantastic, it is difficult to imagine anyone to deliver these lines seriously and comically as Emma Stone does to Rachel Weisz.

Mounting Tricks and elements

As we have so far been accustomed to, every Lanthimos film in English at a certain point is moving to draw inspiration from one of Kubrick’s works. So The Favourite takes a pretty fine sum of visual elements and tricks in the light of Barry Lyndon. A lot of scenes were filmed through the FishEye lens, often managing to capture entire rooms and corridors in which the action takes place.

Also, the sounds from one scene are occasionally overlapping in the next, although the situation is often reversed, that the sounds from the scene that follows are heard during the duration of the current scene. However, while Lanthimos has so far been doing the homage to Kubrick films, The Favourite seems like a companion piece to Barry Lyndon. It takes place at a distance of less than a hundred years, visually, with design kits and costumes, films are quite similar and both question and ironically depict the position of power.

About Oscars and Rotten apples

The Tenth and eleventh months in recent years have been shown as ‘ oscar bait ‘ season. Although Many films are currently highly ranked as favourites for a series of prestigious AMPAS awards, primarily A Star Is Born, First Man and Bohemian Rhapsody, none of the above has risen excessively in all aspects needed for the prize.

The Favourite is the first true film of the year that could dominate by the number of nominations and prizes won because from directing, through screenplays and acting to the assembly and design of kits and costumes this is a film worth prestigious awards.