Period dramas are a genre of film I'm starting to appreciate more and more; Last year's Phantom Thread (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) was a smart study of the twisted bond between two very different people and what it is that keeps them together. Yorgos Lanthimos' The Favourite covers similar grounds but, I'd argue, in a more slick and polished manner that made it viciously entertaining to watch.
The Favourite follows the frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and her love affair between the devious Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and the former servant Abigail (Emma Stone). Their performance, particularly those of Colman and Stone, are the main driving force that makes this film so entertaining. Colman manages to portray Queen Anne as simultaneously child-like and commanding. Watching her flip from softly-spoken one moment to blinding rage the next was fascinating to watch yet also made sense in relation to her illness. Rarely does she come off as melodramatic and, if she does, it feels intentional, and so only strengthens her overall performance. By far the best performance of the film, though Stone manages to leave an impression too. I oddly found myself very impressed with how well she was able to imitate a British accent, destroying the stereotype that American actors can't impersonate said accent well. She portrays moments of love, breakdown, and anger so genuinely and with the utmost sincerity.
I feel that even the film's weaker aspects result in a positive outcome; I didn't find myself fully invested in the relationships within the love-triangle mainly because I don't feel there was enough time spent developing, for instance, Abigail's feelings towards Queen Anne. But I think that's the point of the film. This isn't some sentimental romance focusing on the blossoming love these characters feel for the Queen, but rather, this is a film about being the Queen's "favourite", AKA, her past-time or her hobby. It's twisted, in a way, how the film conveys Abigail trying to impress the Queen just so she can rise through the ranks and not put up with the horrors of lower-class life at the time. It's almost darkly comic, and gives the film that extra kick that kept me so invested and wanting more. However, it was that want for more that ultimately meant the ending of the film was slightly disappointing. I won't spoil it, but the film stops rather abruptly. It ties up threads well enough but, in comparison with the film's unique tone and dazzling presentation, this ending is kind of a dud.
Speaking of dazzling presentation, this film is gorgeous to look at. The Queen's Palace and its halls feel large and dominating in every scene thanks to the low-angles and wide lenses, allowing the viewer to be transported into this world easily as well as amplifying Coleman's already terrific performance. There is a noticeable fish-eye effect used in many scenes, and whilst this did seem a bit distracting at first, it surprised me how well this worked in amplifying the size and scope of this palace. Though the film is mostly set within this one location, it rarely feels claustrophobic, and I can't help but admire this. The movements of the camera also impressed me, whipping back and forth between characters in a slightly Kubrick-esque way that helped to communicate seamlessness and how the palace seems to transcend space in its dizzying size.
This film's main strength is perhaps simultaneously it's biggest weakness; it left me wanting more. I was fascinated by how this world was conveyed visually and the terrific performances were icing on the cake, but its dull, abrupt ending, while satisfying enough, paled in comparison with the film's razor-sharp wit and darkly-comedic satirical presentation.