The Favourite | Teen Ink

The Favourite MAG

March 5, 2019
By dailyplanet BRONZE, Covina, California
dailyplanet BRONZE, Covina, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment.

Initially, I had no intentions in approaching “The Favourite.” It’s simple: I’m not a fan of historical period dramas. Nevertheless, Twitter persuaded me to believe that there was something absolutely exquisite and rich about director Yorgos Lanthimos’ film. Alone on a Saturday evening, I caved and sat through nearly two hours of some of the most elegant visuals and performances of the year, which successfully coated a rather dry and somehow pretentious story.


No doubt about it, the actors have done an excellent job with the roles they’ve been given. Emma Stone expresses a skeptical charm as Abigail Masham, serving justice to the mistrust we’re supposed to bestow onto her character. Through a shot inside a carriage, we see the cruel way Abigail’s family treats her. Later on, Abigail is pushed into the mud, landing face first in the pile of filth. As she enters Queen Anne’s (played by Olivia Colman) halls, reuniting with her older cousin, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), Abigail displays a witty sense of humor, tricking audiences to find something likable about her. While the film carries on, we learn that Abigail is much more than a suffering scullery maid. She worms her way into Sarah’s life, and
eventually, wins over Queen Anne’s affection.


Weisz is compelling as Sarah, carrying herself with both grace and strength. Though coming off as rather stern, toward the final act of the film, we see Sarah’s true compassionate heart, as she begs for the love of Queen Anne that Abigail has stolen from her. Sarah is thrown around the castle out of love and anger. An obedient confidante, adviser, and secret lover of Anne, Sarah shows endless amounts of loyalty and nobility from start to finish. She is not as vile and manipulative as Abigail, and strategically finds ways to restore her righteous place as the closest woman to Queen Anne. 


Both Weisz and Stone are remarkably believable as developing enemies, unafraid to harm the other if it means having the affection of the Queen. However, it is Olivia Colman who shines through the muted, neutral tones of the film’s color grading. Queen Anne arrives with a delightful sense of humor, yet an aura of melancholy as she’s shown suffering from both stage fright and an internal illness. With her 17 rabbits bathing in the British sun, Queen Anne carries herself with a charm that truly makes the audience understand why Abigail and Sarah wish to be her favorite. Anne is rather unsure of herself and her worth, needing approval and validation to reassure her that she is loved. This, however, is also a weakness of Anne’s. As the monarch in power, Queen Anne relies greatly on both Sarah and Abigail to deliver orders at her will.


The execution of the film is absolutely remarkable. The costume designs, though not completely accurate to the times, are absolutely stunning. The color grading is somewhat pleasing, though most scenes that are majorly yellow are rather unappetizing. Otherwise, the outdoors scenes are visual treats and the scenery is quite pleasant. What also redeemed the film’s lackluster storyline was the cinematography. Fish-eye lenses were a strange, but riveting choice. As someone who isn’t fond of these bubble-like perspectives, I happened to enjoy these, though they occasionally felt out of place with certain tones and settings of the first and second act. The score carries the story, adding higher levels of intensity that wouldn’t exist without the music.


As the film concluded, I was left both mesmerized yet disappointed. I, myself, am not a fan of period dramas. Perhaps if the film had a much more enticing story, or at least dialogue that didn’t make me feel like a dumbfounded outsider, I would have felt more satisfied. Though the performances are strong, I found it difficult to truly sympathize with any of the characters. The upper class language
customary in British politics of the time caused me to stop and try to process what was said on many occasions. Nonetheless, “The Favourite” held my interest throughout most of the film through strong performances, scoring, engrossing cinematography, and costumes that left me in awe. The rivalry, betrayal, and scandals of Anne, Abigail, and Sarah were some of the most entrancing dilemmas used in historical dramas. 


If you do enjoy such dramas with a standout style, this is definitely a film for you. If you’d prefer dramas with brutal action and intensely gruesome executions, this may be less than a favorite of yours. “The Favourite” embraces the genre of historical period dramas with open arms, embellishing it with the unique vision of Yorgos Lanthimos, and 17 precious rabbits that you can’t help but cry for in the closing scene.

The author's comments:

I am a high school sophomore in the Creative Writing conservatory at CSArts. Cinema studies and film criticism are my passions. Reviewing films are my favorite past time. Working as a film critic is a dream of mine, and I've done just so for more than three years on multiple online platforms. Currently, I leave film reviews on the popular website, Letterboxd, and do so for every film I watch.

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