Earlier than she was stuffing herself sick with pastries and “livid leaping” with Mark Ruffalo as Bella Baxter in “Poor Issues,” Emma Stone teamed up with Lanthimos and “Poor Issues” author Tony McNamara for “The Favorite.” The 2018 interval piece facilities on Abigail Masham (Stone), a financially destitute younger lady who’s decided to develop into Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) court docket favourite, pitting her towards her cousin Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), the ailing Anne’s right-hand lady and personal lover.
As with all different Lanthimos movie, the setting of “The Favorite” abides by its personal algorithm. There is not any such factor as foul play in Queen Anne’s court docket on the subject of those that outrank you, as we see when Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer (Nicholas Hoult, splendidly nasty), casually pushes Abigail down a hill at midnight, or when Sarah off-the-cuff fires a pistol at Abigail in the course of a “pleasant” afternoon at a capturing vary. Sadly for Sarah, Abigail proves to be a much more crafty and ruthless opponent than she anticipated. By the identical token, “The Favorite” allowed Stone to subvert her adorkable gal-next-door picture and kicked off her present pattern of taking part in difficult and incessantly off-putting weirdos (one thing we’re all the higher off for).
As a lot as I like “Poor Issues” and its off-kilter Frankensteinian story of liberation (an concept in step with the remainder of Lanthimos’ oeuvre), I feel “The Favorite” may nonetheless be my, uh, favourite of his movies. It is simply three folks — together with Colman in a well-earned Oscar-winning flip — getting down within the grime (and, when the event deserves, getting down and soiled) as they vie to subjugate each other. With its razor-sharp wit and observations about relationships and energy dynamics, it is as purely Lanthimos as his films get.