The Favourite Blu-ray Review
"As it turns out, I'm capable of much unpleasantness."
The Favourite Film Review
A trifecta of stunning female lead performances define this exquisitely stylish black comedy drama from acclaimed Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.Lanthimos garnered attention for his daring Dogtooth, and more recently with two of Colin Farrell's best films - The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Reuniting with The Lobster co-star Rachel Weisz, his latest feature is just as striking as his previous works, playfully celebrating a comically absurd period of history, whilst engineering a surprisingly deep study of the inner workings of not only the political landscape but also of a trio of wildly different - and powerful - women who are at the centre of it all.
The story follows Queen Anne, a poorly, childish and volatile ruler who appears more interested in racing lobsters or eating cake until she is sick than she is in dealing with the needs of the country, or indeed the ongoing war with France. Her closest confidante is Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough, whose husband is leading the battle overseas whilst she basically rules the nation in the Queen's stead and provides friendship and intimate companionship to the Queen too. When Sarah's manipulative younger cousin arrives looking for gainful employment, she weasels her way into the Queen's favour, seeking to eliminate Sarah and reap the rewards of herself being by the Queen's side.
The Favourite is typically Lanthimosian in style, which will - for some - take some getting used to
Although clearly only loosely based on historical fact, there's reportedly plenty of 'evidence' to support that there was indeed some truth to the notion that the Duchess of Marlborough was a very powerful player during these times, and that there was perhaps some furtive relationship between her and the Queen, which led to much later conflict. Ultimately this does not matter, however - Lanthimos isn't interested in an 18th Century version of The Crown (even if it inadvertently plays out as a much more effective period-set alternative to the female-driven final season of House of Cards) - as The Favourite does such a fabulous job bringing its core characters to life with playful intensity.
Olivia Colman won the Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Anne, and it's a wonderfully nuanced performance, but both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are equally deserving of the accolade, with Stone enjoying one of her darkest and most mischievous roles yet, whilst Weisz gets some surprising depth of character over the course of the narrative.
The Favourite is typically Lanthimosian in style, which will - for some - take some getting used to, using wide-lenses and distorted shots to fill the frame with intricate and exquisite shots that emphasise the absurd extravagance of the era. It's arguably award-worthy cinematography but that and the dark humour - the duck race is only topped by nude dodgeball with oranges - may conflict those expecting a straightforward period study. Actually, The Favourite is far more, enjoying the almost Blackadder insanity of the period, whilst playing its core relationships straight and revelling in the commensurate machinations, political and otherwise. Perhaps not quite a perfect beast, it's intimate and intricate and, strangely, utterly compelling.
The Favourite Blu-ray PictureThe Favourite comes to Region Free UK Blu-ray courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, with what appears to be the exact same, largely excellent, 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation as their preceding US Blu-ray release, rendered in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 widescreen.
An excellent video presentation
Shot on film, the lavish production boasts stunning detail, rendering the period trappings with aplomb, and affording the intricate landscape excellent clarity, whilst revelling in the makeup-caked visages of the key players, and their increasingly worn faces beneath. The very distinctive shooting style favours some skewed focal points, with a fish-eyed wide-lens adding to the almost surreal, creepy imagery, often shot from low, as well as some light softness when the boundaries of faux candle lighting reach their limits - but nothing that prevents this from being a faithful representation of the material, with some stunning shadow work, impenetrable blacks, and simply exquisite cinematography turning the frame into an ornately intricate image rich with seemingly endless detail. The colour scheme enjoys the rich and lavish tones you would expect from this sumptuous period piece, favouring browns and golds, with gorgeous interiors and vibrant green grounds, as well as those aforementioned impenetrable blacks. It's an excellent video presentation.
The Favourite Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track also does a stunning job with the excellent classically-stylised score, giving dialogue prioritisation and background nuances breadth across the array, whilst the score sweeps the gamut of absurdist comedy to dark drama, with playful period undertones.
The audio track also does a stunning job
Voices, whether the volatile explosions of the Queen, or the whispered threats of her court - or indeed the crowded yells of Parliament - gets keenly prioritised across the array, given that echoing depth commensurate to the vast halls and chambers that set the proceedings. There are some cracking gunshots, thrumming parties, and a hilarious version of 'classical' pop music which involves so much repetition that it reminds us that the relevance of The Lego Movie: Part II's "Catchy Song" applies even hundreds of years ago. The score is whimsical, playful, yet dark and strained when necessary, furthering the narrative undertones but also perfectly suited to the period, rounding out an excellent track.
The Favourite Blu-ray ExtrasHardly bursting with supplemental material
Hardly bursting with supplemental material, The Favourite's Blu-ray release enjoys a 22 minute making-of documentary, which has some nice little interview snippets from the cast and crew, as well as a brief spat of Deleted Footage and a Trailer.
The Favourite Blu-ray VerdictThere's something to be said for organic female dominance in movies like The Favourite and Nicole Kidman's recent Destroyer. Certainly, The Favourite is far more effective at female-driven political machinations than the more contrived final season of House of Cards, and the trio of character studies at its core provide roles which will likely be regarded as high points in the careers of all three actresses involved.
Intimate and intricate and, strangely, utterly compelling
Fox's UK Blu-ray release of The Favourite matches up to its preceding US counterpart, delivering excellent video and audio, and a smattering of extra features. Even if you don't immediately warm to Lanthimos' very distinctive style, or the darkly playful absurdist tone that underpins the piece, you may still find it utterly compelling, and worth watching for the performances alone. As such it comes highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £14.99
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