Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
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…like a failed attempt to make a Peter Greenaway film, though without any of his imagination or instinctual flair.
Set in the early 18th century during the very brief reign of Queen Anne, and partly filmed at Hampton Court Palace, this might sound like a light, elegant and nostalgically escapist film. In fact, it’s often crude and jarring, decidedly peculiar and sometimes very dark.
Unfortunately, none of this makes it particularly good, and a surfeit of distracting gimmicks such as fish-eye lens cinematography and gratuitous soundtrack noises stop it from being immersive or engrossing.
The story unfolds at a time when England is at war with France, and various court attendees are competing and intriguing over how and indeed whether to prosecute that war. These machinations are, however, peripheral to the guts of the matter, which is an eternal triangle. The three ‘sides’ of it are the frail queen herself (Olivia Colman), her friend Lady Sarah Churchill the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and the newly arrived would-be servant/maid Abigail (Emma Stone). Abigail is of upper-class background herself, but has fallen on hard times. She does, however, share with the other two protagonists the quality – if that’s the word for it – of not being a remotely likeable or sympathetic character. This, of course, serves to prevent us from caring about their fates, or about the movie in general. The fact that the occasional attempts at humour (slapstick and otherwise) are not funny doesn’t help either.
The Favourite is like a failed attempt to make a Peter Greenaway film, though without any of his imagination or instinctual flair. Director Yorgos Lanthimos is something of an auteur too when he’s on form, but this time he isn’t.