As D mentioned right after we watched it, The Favourite was the best film this year in its depiction of power relationships. I would agree, though our top pick, Death of Stalin and another great one, Phantom Thread, went a long way in that regard as well.
The Favourite goes for it in terms of artistic license and cinematic technique: stylistically, in its depiction of sexuality, choreography and language. It is a bold film. Yet its visual style at times didn’t work for me. Panning on a Steadicam with an ultra wide lens on, unless you are after some type of motion sickness, is not a great idea. We get it, Kensington Palace is massive, you want us to see that. Okay. But just trade up a few focal lengths, stop down a smidge so you can keep deep focus, and guess what, Kensington Palace is still massive! Steadicam does achieve a sort of sweeping kinetic energy and those shots were reminiscent of the masterful Russian Ark (2002) — a feature film shot at the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, accomplished in one historically long shot. Russian Ark is impressive to say the absolute least. However, I don’t think it was necessarily the best technique to employ for The Favourite and it did seem to me that as the film moved on it was used less and less. However, this particular technique wasn’t the end of the world for me, I prefer bold choices in production. It’s just a choice I would have adjusted or used sparingly. Royal intrigue to me plays much better on a tripod or a dolly. Something more stable. But Queen Anne is so unstable! you might opine. —But is she?
With the Steadicam following Abigail (Emma Stone) around, I half felt like I was in some type of time warp reflection of the Iñárritu masterpiece Birdman, where Stone plays Michael Keaton’s somewhat reckless but also caring daughter Sam, a recovering drug addict. Another masterful performance. There are few actresses who can hold an entire film together with so little as a fleeting glance, Emma Stone is one. In fact, Stone’s performance here is so strong that if she is not nominated for an Academy Award, I shall have to relive myself in the royal vomit bucket— there is apparently one in every room of the palace.
The Favourite moves right along, with many eyebrow raising twists and turns. And with Olivia Colman playing Queen Anne, the puppet master between Abigail and Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) most skillfully, nary a moment is lost in this tightly spun narrative.
It may have slid in too late for our 2018 best of picks but The Favuorite would have been right in there with the top contenders.