The nadir of Yorgos Lanthimos’ uniformly underwhelming body of work, The Favourite follows a pair of 18th century figures (Rachel Weisz’s Lady Sarah and Emma Stone’s Abigail) as they compete to win the attention and affection of a mentally-unbalanced Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). It’s clear immediately that The Favourite’s biggest (and perhaps only) asset is Lanthimos’ typically off-the-wall visual sensibilities, as the director, working from an impenetrable screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, juices even the most mundane of sequences with eye-catching instances of unusual (and, occasionally, distracting) cinematography (ie the movie seems to set a new record for sequences shot through a fish-eye lens). There’s little doubt, then, that Lanthimos’ refusal (or inability) to provide an entry point for the viewer paves the way for a momentum-free midsection that grows less and less interesting (and tolerable), and it’s apparent, as well, that the movie’s total absence of fully-fleshed-out protagonists exacerbates the progressively tedious atmosphere – with this especially true of Colman’s tiresome turn as the one-note, tempestuous Queen Anne. Lanthimos’ repetitive, monotonous modus operandi ensures that The Favourite‘s second half is entirely devoid of elements designed to alleviate the crushingly interminable atmosphere, which ensures, certainly, that the whole thing peters out long before arriving at its laughably nonsensical conclusion – thus confirming the film’s place as an utter trainwreck that makes one long for the comparative mastery of Lanthimos’ earlier endeavors.
no stars out of ****