Some directors use historical dramas to prove they are capable of doing a ‘prestigious’ picture. Ang Lee with Sense and Sensibility, Sofia Coppola with Marie Antoinette. But not Yorgos Lanthimos. He’s back with a new brainchild, The Favorite, and the new trailer promises to completely destroy every preconception you have about period dramas. On the back of last year’s release, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the eccentric Greek has returned to comedy and doesn’t disappoint with his latest offering.
In what looks to be a biting satire of 18th-century aristocracy, the film sees Olivia Colman star alongside Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone as members of a royal English court in the early 18th century – where the Queen is completely mad. Expect courtiers firing guns in all directions, slapstick pratfalls and not a little of the funny-sinister tone that hallmark’s Lanthimos’ other movies. If you’ve ever watched BBC’s Horrible Histories, you might have an idea about the kind of tone he’s going for here.
Queen Anne (Colman) is on the throne, and her closest friend Lady Sarah (Weisz) is governing the country. All goes well until a new servant, Abigail (Stone), arrives and shakes things up. While Sarah is off plotting war against the French, Abigail becomes the new favorite and things all go downhill from there. Anne is a lesser-known installation in the British monarchy, but maybe Lanthimos decided that this was her time to shine. Why not?
The trailer sets us up for a less than picturesque period drama: don’t let the ruffled collars and stately Baroque score fool you. Indoor duck racing, rabbit shooting, men leaping out from behind trees and more fisheye shots than you can shake a stick at – it’s all there. It seems to keep its head above melodrama waters and, rightly for Lanthimos, plunges into farce, complete with disheveled royalty and silly facial expressions.
The Greek auteur has received tons of critical accolades and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2017 for writing the screenplay for The Lobster (missing out to Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester By The Sea). In The Lobster, we got a slice of life from a vague, dystopian and darkly comic point of view. Colman and Weisz also starred in this picture, and it will be the first picture that sees them reunited. Lanthimos’ Killing of a Sacred Deer was released in late 2017, but this bleak horror was far gorier and aimed at an arthouse crowd. Here, there’s something for everyone, pineapple-lovers and jockeys alike.
Joe Alwyn (also set to show up in Mary Queen of Scots later this year) appears alongside the leads, with Nicholas Hoult (just missing out on Top Gun 2) co-starring. Even Mark Gatiss (of GoT and Sherlock fame) will make an appearance. There’s a good mix of British household names and US stars thrown into the mix, promising a movie that quickly descends into chaos and a battle for power.
The Favorite is a UK/Ireland co-production with US input and distribution and has been backed by Film4, Bloom, Scarlet Productions (a division of BFI) and Element Pictures. It will be released in theaters on November 23, and I can’t wait to see how Lanthimos is going to completely turn every convention of period dramas on its head. Sorry, The Crown.