‘The Favourite’ Film Review
by Campbell Dalglish
Athenian Director Yorgos Lanthimos (THE LOBSTER) takes a period drama out of 18th Century England and twists it into a satire, pushing the limits of every strict royal English code just far enough to reveal what’s really underneath all that wardrobe and make-up, lifting all the veils, skirts, and wigs to embarrass everyone out from hiding, throwing them into the air like a pigeon for shooting practice and public humiliation.
Into a tightly knit scandalous affair between Queen Anne, played unwincingly by Olivia Colman ( THE LOBSTER) and her secret lover, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz also from THE LOBSTER), arrives, covered in stinking mud, her distant cousin and dispossessed noble woman, Abigail (Emma Stone from LA LA LAND and BIRDMAN). At first Abigail is all too willing to play nursery maid “monster” to the Queen’s seventeen lost children, now a covey of seventeen rabbits, but in earnest is there to win her way into the hearts and minds of the nobility that has banned her from their social class. Forced to take up residence with all the other maids jammed onto a basement room floor, she begins to work her way up from the-bottom of society, literally. We don’t know that of course until her actions one by one reveal her intentions. While blood is being spilled in the battlefields with France, a private chamber war is being fought over who will win the affections of the frail gout-stricken queen in her chamber bed forcing authorities to make tax payers pay for the war.
This satire is achieved not just through highly stylized acting, but by the film crew working hand in hand with Lanthimos to create a quirky look at an 18th Century English play of manners. Robbie Ryan, Cinematographer, chooses film over video, using natural lighting and candles to walk us through the darkness of the 1486 Hatfield House, letting the old palace write itself into the story, room by room. Fiona Crombie, the Production Designer, left everything in place on location, building only an extra-long hallway to the bed chamber. Sandy Powell, Costume Designer, heightened the costumes just enough to make us really wonder what was underneath all of those puffed out rear ends of dresses. Yorgos Mavropsaridis, Editor, who likes to splice things together while the filming is going on, creates a pace using dissolves, making us see characters inside each other’s minds, and finishes with a unique dissolve where the psychologies of Abigail and Queen Anne merge together with all the lost children that have become rabbits. Johnnie Burn, Sound Designer, arranges a subtle but continuous thread of industrial like sounds that thread all the disjointed scenes together with tension and unpredictable suspense. Nadia Stacey, Hair and Makeup Designer, doesn’t hold back on building stairways of hair on top of the actors, making it nearly impossible for them to turn their heads without the whole room feeling it is there to make a jest.
You can catch this film in its second week at the Plaza MAC at 20 Terry Street: Thurs, Dec 20 - 3:30 P, Fri, Dec 21 - 4:30, 7:30 P, Sat, Dec 22 - 2:30, 5:30, 8:30 P, Sun, Dec 23 - 1:30, 4:30, 7:30 P, Mon, Dec 24 - 5:00 P, Tues, Dec 25 - 6:00 P, Wed, Dec 26 - 4:30, 7:30 P, Thurs, Dec 27 - 4:45, 7:45 P