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Thursday, August 29, 2019

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[Review] The Favourite (2018)


His most accessible feature may well be, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite brings in a cheeky, confrontational tug of war drenched in unrestrained seduction and tempestuous spite that’s as driven as our exquisite leading charmers. So familiar yet so uniquely newfangled, The Favourite reconstructs, borrows from the greatest yet has plenty of its own to offer, stating its historical frame with self-assured, composed elan and a flare of cynicism. As a caricature of period pieces, this Lanthimos’s latest cinematic offering puts us in an eternal triangle that blurs the line between power and loyalty, where each string-pulling goes quietly frantic and its historical centerpiece evolves into an outlandish misfit. The Favourite gives no room for black-and-white dichotomy, with screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara painting our dramatis personæ in brass-necked, mystifying strokes.

Rachel Weisz is both graceful and rock-ribbed, a natural-born poiser with unflinching, irresistible fluency in charismatic stoicism. Emma Stone is simply a delight to witness. A cross between sharp-witted ingénue and hypnotic femme fatale, she smirks in her triumph and gratifies in anything she does. Between them, there stands Olivia Colman: a naive, dewy-eyed ruler whose unfortunate tragedies have translated her into something bigger than a freakish queen who squeezes joy out of duck racing. Her 17 rabbits, representing the lost of her 17 children, are physical manifestations that reflect her darkest, most heart-rending vent of her life, defining her as more than a comedic relief, but the heart that echoes humanity in bare, deep insecurity. These three take the spotlight by turns, and just radiate as the focus sways back and forth between each other’s agony and glee.


Lanthimos is a sharp-eyed satirist, and as they descend into a circle of hell and clashes of influence, he turns The Favourite into a whimsical c*ntfest that only beguiles and gets nastier with each political flip-flop. Even when it clearly rags on the double-dealing, wicked intentions camouflaging behind its royal grandiosity, how it places moral vacancy is clearly beside the mark. If anything, The Favourite’s fundamental mordant force glisters the brightest as they dig their graves, invoking a bewitching intricacy to untangle: who are those graves exactly for? When we get to the answer, we’re too drawn that who’s six feet under may not even matter anymore, but Lanthimos makes sure that the touchdown is as stinging as the long haul voyage, capitalizing the film’s true kernel that’s akin to All About Eve’s lingering, seismic effects.

With the women, bare-faced, and the men, covered with makeup and sensational wigs, The Favourite makes it clear they don’t play by anyone’s rule: it’s a spin on power-hungry shouting match; snarky, kinky dangerous liaisons of even more cunning ladies, all wrapped in a tragicomedy that stirs appetite for a mighty, untamed puppetry. Needless to say, not your first resort to a fact-based history lesson, but an unabatingly fun showcase of downright malice it is.


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