The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2018)
With the mesmerizing aesthetics and powerful performances of his latest work, unconventional director Yorgos Lanthimos becomes an Academy "favourite".
I had my reservations about The Favourite when I first heard about Yorgos Lanthimos's new release. Don't get me wrong, I never doubted it would be a great film, but it felt as if, suddenly, the unconventional greek director had decided to take on a screenplay that was more fitting to the Academy's taste than his previous works. Known for his uncanny, bizarre stories, Lanthimos had proven to be a truly out-of-the-ordinary director, with films like Dogtooth (2010), The Lobster (2015) -a masterpiece with a superb screenplay, that actually earned it an Oscar nomination back in 2016- and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), relying on ambiguous plots filled with unsettling elements and disturbing characters. So, when reading about The Favourite, everything pointed towards it as the inevitable moment Lanthimos had officially become a sell-out. However, though the story is indeed far from the strangeness of its predecessors, it is also far from being a regular historical piece. The rare form of comedy adopted in the script and the ambiguity imbued in what could otherwise be another period drama definitely shows that Lanthimos has not lost his own voice -though he has, in fact, toned it down- in the process of gaining the Academy's recognition.
I was visually captivated by this film from the second it started. I have yet to watch Roma and Cold War, so I can't really say much in terms of directing at this point -both Cuarón and Pawlikowski being strong contenders for the award in this category-, but Lanthimos's work by itself makes for a masterpiece in modern filmmaking. Same goes to Robbie Ryan for his work as director of photography, creating a visual atmosphere made up of mesmerizing, beautifully captured shots. From the very first frame -a wide-screen shot that shows Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman) from behind, being undressed by two servants, in the company of Lady Marlborough (played by Rachel Weisz), allowing the spectator to get a full glimpse of the breathtaking scenario in which most of the film takes place-, The Favourite shows a mastery in cinematography that only gets better and better with every single scene. Aesthetically, this film is pure gold and I believe it rightfully earned every single one of its ten nominations for the Academy Awards -my only objection being that the score failed to become its eleventh-.
As far as acting goes, it doesn't fall short either. In fact, I think the performances are what bring everything together, working hand-in-hand with the screenplay to make for a truly extraordinary story. With a core cast of only three actresses, each of them delivering more than outstanding performances, The Favourite proves that a strong cast has nothing to do with quantity -something that the Screen Actors Guild failed to take into account, as it left The Favourite out of the run for Best Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture-. The performances of Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, both as a cast and individually, are some of the best of the year and they constitute the final element for this film to become a marvelous modern masterpiece -special shoutout to Weisz, who I personally consider delivered the strongest performance out of all three-.
At this point, I don't think there is any doubt that Yorgos Lanthimos is a force to be reckoned with. Us cinephiles have known this for a while and now the Academy -finally- does too. I'm not quite sure if The Favourite is going to be the ultimate winner on Oscar night, but it is definitely one of the best -if not the best- contenders this year and it is, surely, a favourite for me.