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Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz are a deliciously dark trio in “The Favourite”

Nobody is making movies these days quite like Yorgos Lanthimos is making. Throughout his career, he has been doing things in such a unique way, it doesn’t even compare. Alps, Dogtooth, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Lobster…these are specific films coming from a distinctive voice. This week, he brings us yet another pitch black effort with an undercurrent of humor. The title in question is The Favourite, which marks one of his best outings yet, though one that he didn’t write. You’d never know it though, as this is Lanthimos through and through. Furthermore, this stands to be his most awards friendly movie yet, which is new territory for him.

This is a black comedy period piece, which is rare in and of itself. Sure, it bills itself as a drama, but really, this is Lanthimos and company going for laughs. They’re dark laughs, to be sure, but laughs nonetheless. Set in England during the early 18th century, we’re introduced to Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), a rather frail ruler who seems far more concerned with duck races than the war going on with the French. While she engages in frivolity and odd ravings, her best friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) effectively acts as the head of state. Governing the country in all matters of importance, Sarah has things done her way, often behind the back of Anne. Things threaten to change when a new servant in Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives on the scene. A cousin of Sarah’s, she’s just as power hungry, and arguably even more clever. Endearing herself to Anne, a strange triangle forms. The less you know about the developments, the better, but suffice to say, some dark hilarity ensues. Lanthimos directs a script from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Filling out the supporting cast are Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss, and Nicholas Hoult in a scene stealing turn, just to name a few. Robbie Ryan handles the cinematography.

For the first hour or so, this is one of the best and funniest films of 2018. Things fizzle out in the second half, but Colman, Stone, and Weisz are still solid gold for Lanthimos. They take to his particular style brilliantly. Colman especially surprises, mixing humor and pathos in equal measure. Stone and Weisz play off of each other well, with each having moments to shine. Factor in the phenomenal production design and overall prowess behind the camera, and you have Lanthimos’ most complete work to date. If the third act wasn’t on the weak side, it would be his best film yet. As it stands, it falls short of Dogtooth, but it’s still one of the year’s more deliciously fun movies.

Oscar wise, The Favourite has a chance to really get acclaim across the board. Fox Searchlight is wise to campaign this one all over the place. Efforts in Best Picture, Best Director (for Lanthimos), Best Actress (for Colman), Best Supporting Actress (for Stone and/or Weisz), Best Original Screenplay (for Davis and McNamara), Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, and Best Costume Design could easily pay off. If Academy voters really go for it, watch out for even more love, potentially in Best Supporting Actor (for Hoult), Best Film Editing, and Best Makeup & Hairstyling. There’s a day where this flick ends up with double digit Academy Award nominations.

The Favourite is going to be a hoot for a certain kind of viewer. Fans of what Lanthimos has done before will find a lot to like here, as it’s both very much like what he’s done before, yet also somewhat more mainstream. This rests just outside of my top ten list for the year so far, which should suggest just how much of a good time this really is. Colman, Stone, and Weisz alone make this a must see. It may not be the most family friendly option on this Thanksgiving weekend, but it is one of the best options…

Be sure to check out The Favourite, beginning its theatrical run this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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