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Review: The Favourite (2018)

It’s really weird…and it’s fantastic. Go see it! 

Who would have thought that a period piece comedy-drama would be the most popular movie in downtown Toronto? You guys,the theatre was PACKED. Granted it was cheap Tuesday, but still I was flabbergasted. I thought I had walked into a Marvel movie by mistake. Okay, so, wow… The Favourite (2018). You guys, this was a WEIRD one. It was weird, but it was also daring, wholly original, and maybe one of the best movies I’ve seen this year?

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Credit: / Fox Searchlight Pictures

Yorgos Lanthimos, director of acclaimed movies such as The Lobster (2015) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), helms this biopic loosely based on the behind-the-scenes rivalry between two cousins in 18th century England, competing to be the court favourite of Queen Anne. Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, played by Rachel Weisz, has been the Queen’s favourite for years, slyly whispering in her ear how best to run the country. Her younger cousin Abigail, played by Emma Stone, arrives at Court looking for work and though begins as a scullery maid, quickly catches the attention of the Queen.  I’ll admit, I went into this movie thinking, “this will probably be a wonderfully-acted, hard-hitting political drama that’s great to look at, but I wont find very interesting.” Plot twist, I was right AND wrong. Yes, The Favourite is a wonderfully-acted political drama that’s great to look at, but it’s also expertly-written, laugh out loud funny, and wildly entertaining. But the best reason to love this movie? Multiple shots of multiple bunnies! I haven’t seen aggressive adorableness like this since Bohemian Rhapsody (2018). By the way, Rami Malek has Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations for his lead role as Freddie Mercury, so do yourself a favour and check out my review here. #ShamelessPlug.

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Credit: / Fox Searchlight Pictures

I need to talk about the writing in this movie. As a writer, it’s always the first thing I notice and more often than not, the thing I’m either most impressed or let down by. Well, I’m here to tell you that The Favourite not only delivers on sensational writing, but also sets the bar for written dialogue in 2019. Filled with generous amounts of cutting lines and biting wit, The Favourite is just as pleasurable to listen to as it is to watch. Honestly, there are too many fantastic lines to repeat and I’d only do them an injustice to attempt to recreate them here. The type of dialogue that any writer wishes they had written, you’re going to leave the theatre with an arsenal of smart and gut-punching comebacks for any situation. Seriously, this movie is a masterclass in throwing shade.

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Credit: / Fox Searchlight Pictures

At the centre of the deliciously malicious shade-throwing are Weisz and Stone who are co-stars in every sense of the word. Both women get equal time to put their talent on display which any audience member will appreciate, because each is captivating in their role. Let’s just get this out of the way, Weisz’s Sarah is the Head Bitch In Charge and she plays the part to perfection. With every ice-cold diss, judgemental remark, and movement she makes, I was on the edge of my seat eagerly waiting to see what devious act of manipulation she would make next. Stone shines just as brightly as the just and innocent Abigail, whose thirst for power compels her to commit act after act of immorality. It’s an interesting turn for Stone who normally plays very likeable characters, so to see her play a woman who is almost machiavellian, is thoroughly enjoyable. Both actresses’ impeccable performances bolster the movie’s suspenseful twists and turns and will leave you questioning which cousin you want to win the Queen’s favour. Speaking of, Olivia Colman, who plays Queen Anne, is an absolute treasure. Flawlessly conveying every imaginable emotion a gout-stricken and emotionally unstable monarch might experience, Colman is able to walk the difficult line between hilariously comedic and horrifically tragic. A Best Supporting Actress nomination at this year’s Academy Awards is undoubtedly hers.

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Credit: / Fox Searchlight Pictures

As I was watching the movie, the comedy kept throwing me for a loop. As I said, the movie is extremely funny, but the tone is interesting because of how frequently it changes. At times it can be macabre and dark, and then quickly lightens to the point where it feels like a stage play in the vein of “Spamalot.” What it most reminded me of though, was a mockumentary, specifically Jermaine Clement and Taika Waititi’s, What We Do in the Shadows (2014). Probably because of all the vampires. JK, that trend died with The Twilight Saga (2008 – 2012). No, I was reminded of What We Do in the Shadows because of the way The Favourite is able to poke fun at and play with the period piece genre without turning the movie into a stupid, brainless, parody. The movie is able to find the humour in its setting, story, and characters, without ever sacrificing intelligence or creativity. While all actresses accomplish this exceptionally well, keep an eye on Nicholas Hoult as Mr. Harley. His comedic timing and dry, cutthroat wit, easily mark him as the movie’s scene-stealer. Hoult’s performance really reminded me of John Cleese’s early work, especially the iconic and always hilarious, Fawlty Towers (1975 – 1979). A bold comparison, but guys: EVERYONE in this movie was amazing.

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Credit: / Fox Searchlight Pictures

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey (2010 – 2015), or period pieces in general, than The Favourite is mandatory viewing. Oh, also if you’re a fan of immaculate set design. Just when you think Lanthimos is incapable of capturing a more gorgeous shot, BOOM! He totally tops himself. A comedy that’s as dramatic as they come, The Favourite will either have you rolling on the floor, or on pins and needles. Or possibly both. You’ll just have to see it for yourself to find out.

What are your favourite period pieces?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!


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