Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 400-Word Review: The Favourite

The quirky period drama starring Emma Stone is one of the year's best films.

Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

There has been a steady ascension — from very good to great — in the recent work of director Yorgos Lanthimos.

“The Lobster,” in 2015, brought dry humor and occasional heartbreak to a high-concept bit of speculative fiction. His 2017 followup, “The Killing of a Sacred Deer,” was uncanny domestic horror; it was a more complete vision than “The Lobster” (which had a flat third act) but remained a touch too heady to fully resonate.

“The Favourite” is the most direct and accessible of the three films. Which is odd, considering it’s a chamber drama of sexually charged palace intrigue among 18th-century nobility.

Some stories just land.

Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is a regal terror, an oblivious, vainglorious monarch in perennial-yet-undefined ill health. She is managed by Sarah (Rachel Weisz), a confidant, companion and low-level Duchess; Sarah uses a variety of underhanded, obvious and insidious tactics to serve as puppetmaster to the Queen.

Sarah’s influence is upended by the arrival of a distant cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), who is seeking low-level employment. She gets it, in the kitchens; after demonstrating a knack for obsequious toadying even great than her cousin’s, she quickly rises in the Queen’s eyes, leading to a brutal and deliciously biting love triangle.

“The Favourite” is remarkably gorgeous. Its costumes are jaw-dropping, its sets are vivid, its lighting is hypnotic. The cinematography, by Robbie Ryan, is perfect. The period touches are played for enchantment, for humor, for drama and for immersion. And — here’s the remarkable thing — that’s all kind of beside the point.

The staggering thing about this film is how universal it is. It doesn’t matter that we’re dealing with the concerns of good-for-nothing, 300-year-old nobles; this is a simple, human story. Two people are close; a new person shows up; things get complicated. It could be about anyone and anything. It could be about animated squirrels. It’s unavoidably compelling.

A trio of excellent performances makes it easy to get swept up in the tale, though each viewer may pick a different rooting interest. (I opted for Abigail, but you could certainly disagree.) The screenplay, by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, sets up this struggle beautifully (and packs a comedic wallop in many scenes). It is ultimately Lanthimos, though, who creates the simmering mood of tension, jealousy and rage that layers itself over every scene like a fine dust. “The Favourite” is quietly perfect.

My Rating: 10/10

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit Module Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The Latest

This Brit Fell in Love with Pittsburgh's Dirt

During the Civil War, a British writer was enchanted by Pittsburgh’s dirt and soot.

Artist Invites Public to Add to Time Capsule at Arts Festival

Toby Fraley’s love for historical photos inspired him to take the next step for Pittsburgh’s future.

New Dimensions: The Comic Book Store's Surprise Move

Comic-book (store) avengers. How a sprawling comic-book shop moved out of its longtime home — and reopened for business mere hours later.

PM on KD: Recent Restaurant Openings

PM food critic Hal B. Klein appeared on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live to discuss recent Pittsburgh restaurant openings that have him excited.

One Person's Flip Flop is Another One's Art

Ocean Sole Africa’s mission is to reduce pollution and waste by collecting flip flops from the ocean and making them into art.

All In The (Giaramita) Family: La Tavola Italiana and Pizza Taglio

Family members run two distinct restaurants, one classic and one with a contemporary spin.

DeCastro’s Preferred Order: Fries with That, Hold the Drama

The Steelers have emerged from their offseason sessions confident they’re capable of playing better. They also maintain a new atmosphere and culture have been established. But they won’t know for certain until they actually start playing.

Restaurant Review: Masala House in Shadyside

You'll find excellent Indian cuisine in a Shadyside building with a long culinary history.

A Tale of Two Strands: Theaters With the Same Name

In two small towns nearby, old vaudeville stages — which share the same name — have reopened and revitalized their communities.

Hello Neighbor and Scratch Food & Beverage Pair Up for a Very Special Dinner

The community dinner will feature Syrian cuisine, raising awareness of Hello Neighbor's mission and promoting connection and conversation with the region's refugee families.

The 400-Word Review: Murder Mystery

Well into Adam Sandler's tenure as a Netflix actor, he finally comes up with a mostly enjoyable comedy.

From Pittsburgh to the Moon: Our Role in the Space Race

As the nation and private entrepreneurs focus again on space, 50 years after Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, Pittsburgh is once again in the celestial spotlight.

The 400-Word Review: Men in Black International

The alien-comedy series hasn't been good since the 20th century. That trend continues with this soft reboot.

Sweet Partnership: Cakery Square and Fudge Farm

The opening of Fudge Farm's Bloomfield store marks an expansion of Wes Lyons' Pursuit Program and larger menu for the confectioners.

Things We Love — Three Rivers Arts Festival Edition

HOME editor Jessica Sinichak shares her favorite, locally made decorative items from the show.