The latest children’s movie from the director of such pleasant fare as The Lobster and Killing of a Sacred Deer is the quaint and completely normal The Favourite, in which Emma Stone plays an ambitious maid who seeks to destroy the lives of those around her so that she can obtain power by drawing ever closer to the ailing Queen Anne of England circa 1700.
Your kids will love it.
On its surface, The Favourite is the least disturbing of Yorgos Lanthimos’ filmography, which has included scenes of kids ripping their teeth out and a man forced to randomly murder one of his family members. The movie is much less violent and twisted than his others, and yet at its core it is just as ruthless, an exploration of, well, whatever it is an exploration of.
The Favourite benefits from a sharp screenplay full of biting dialogue that you’ll only catch if you pay attention closely—less so in the second half, but maybe that’s because I wasn’t paying as much attention in the second half—and excellent performances by Stone, Olivia Colman, and Rachel Weisz. Set among what would otherwise appear to be your typical period piece full of lavish costumes, makeup and wigs, Lanthimos immerses his audience in a slowly boiling stew of deceit.
Things unfortunately never really boil over.
While The Favourite is captivating for a time—it’s hard not to be when you’re unsure what Lanthimos has cooked up—the movie never ascends to the next level the way some of his other work has achieved. As compelling as the competing characters are early on, as exacting as the dialogue is for a while, it all begins to lose your attention as the story progresses. The dialogue feels less snarky, the characters, their true colors revealed by this point, less fascinating.
By the time the ending rolls around, which is messed up in a sort of sad, nuanced kind of way but not a very satisfied or compelling kind of way, The Favourite simply feels like it left too much potential on the table, or that there wasn’t enough here to make whatever Lanthimos envisioned in the first place. Colman is fantastic as the sickly and oft-delirious queen and Stone delivers one of the best performances of the year, and the screenplay is solid, but The Favourite isn’t a favorite of mine.
Your children may like it, though.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.