Unlike the multi-hued vibrance of period dramas, Yorgos Lanthimos' most recent creation is an alloy forged in dark humour and even darker animations of the human heart aimed at becomingThe Favourite.Taking into account the affections dictated by royalty, the story makes a deliberate foray into the forbidden alleys of sycophancy and concupiscence which abound in the territory of power. The Favourite is a dissection of egoism, of misused liberty and of disengaged loyalty.
Though the movie is set in the earlier parts of 18th century against the backdrop of the war between Britain and France, the conflict stays in the confines of political conversations rather than making any gruesome appearance anywhere in the entire two hour span of the film. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is the titular sovereign while in fact at the helm of power is her loyal friend and confidante Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough who pulls the reins at will on the queen's behalf. Both actresses, given their artistic prowess, maintain the integrity not to overshadow each other, even though their characters, arrogant and amorous, jostle against each other. Colman, as the sick and foul-tempered fading monarch who keeps rabbits as remembrances of her seventeen dead children, is crisp and defined in portraying the predispositions of a vulnerable queen. Weisz, on the other hand, with her natural grace, proves to be a brilliant choice to play the Duchess whose calm demeanour veils the cunning workings of a powermonger basking under the royal patronage.
Into the well-strategised domain of Lady Sarah enters her impoverished cousin Abigail (Emma Stone). Confined to menial work at first, she quickly endears herself to Sarah through her attempts to relieve the queen's suffering from inflamed legs. Promoted to the rank of Sarah's lady of the bedchamber as a token of gratitude, Abigail quickly grows into a perennial presence around the Duchess and thus the Queen and soon becomes an unwanted witness to a forbidden sight. Then onwards, as war foments in the horizon capturing a major portion of Sarah's attention, Abigail (Stone is fierce and convincing as the bright-eyed young cousin who falls for the charms of the power corridors) plots schemes of her own to win royal favour. The war in the background feels like a verbal insignia for the intensifying clash of egos (heightened by operatic music) between the women who tussle to hold the high ground in the Queen's eye.
The cinematography by Robbie Ryan is remarkably congruent with the theme without ever threatening to overpower the heavier notes of the narrative and the costumes, designed in shades of black and white by Sandy Powell, align perfectly with the inky undertone of the film.
The storyline is held taught by the three central characters who keep the finer moments of satire from slipping into absurdity. The well thought of star cast (though the men in the movie, notably [B]Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn and Mark Gatiss[/B)] are sidelined by the feminine turf and the thematic clarity to portray the rather complex and incriminating works of the human mind are what render an experiential intensity to Lanthimos' comedy. 8.5/10 for this diligent work of art!