The Favourite

December 17, 2018 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”)
Written by: Tony McNamara (“Ashby”) and Deborah Davis (debut)

“The Favourite” is unlike any costume drama you’ve ever seen. That includes filmmaker Sofia Coppola’s imaginative and underappreciated 2006 hipster biopic “Marie Antoinette,” where she uses the song “I Want Candy” in the soundtrack and sneaks a pair of blue Converse into one scene.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise if you know the eccentric and invigorating work of Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos in films like “Dogtooth” and “The Lobster,” the latter of which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 2016.

Although Lanthimos hands off script duties for “The Favourite” to Australian TV writer Tony McNamara and first-time writer Deborah Davis, who penned the initial screenplay over two decades ago, his fingerprints are all over it. “The Favourite” is an acerbic and abrasively funny period piece featuring three of the best female performances of the year. The film is like a formal curtsy but with a sharp knee strike to the groin.

Set in the early 18th Century, “The Favourite” is loosely based on the reign of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), the sickly crowned head who ruled Great Britain and Ireland until her death in 1714 at the age of 49. Don’t expect a history lesson here, however. Lanthimos isn’t as interested in the Restoration of the English Monarchy as he is the darker and comically absurd relationships Anne develops with her close advisor Sarah Churchill (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz), and Sarah’s cousin, Abigail Hill (Oscar winner Emma Stone), who is hired to work in the scullery.

When Abigail proves herself to be more than a servant, her and Sarah’s political posturing comes to a head as they find themselves vying for Anne’s attention. With a kingdom’s power at their fingertips, Sarah and Abigail become the year’s most intriguing adversaries as they cut each other down at every turn in an attempt to keep their high-end status from waning.

At times voyeuristic in nature, Lanthimos uses a camera lens that allows moviegoers to witness the debauchery unfold as if we are peeking through a palace peephole. In “The Favourite,” hostility and deceitfulness have never been this wickedly entertaining.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

November 10, 2017 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan
Directed by
: Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”)
Written by: Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) and Efthymis Philipou (“The Lobster”)

With his 2015 film “The Lobster,” writer and director Yorgos Lanthimos established himself as a creative force. With a fascinating premise and surrealist world building, the script was nominated for an Academy Award and firmly put him on the radar of film fans yearning for something cerebral and exciting. With another great premise, Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” continues the trend of high-level creativity and firmly plants him as a true talent to watch.

As a skilled cardiologist, Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) has a successful career, an ophthalmologist wife Anna (Nicole Kidman) and two great kids. But there is something lurking in his mostly hidden relationship with an odd, but seemingly harmless teenager named Martin (Barry Keoghan). As their relationship comes to the surface, Martin reveals earth-shattering information that may change the course of Murphy’s life, along with the rest of his family.

One of the things that Lanthimos did that made “The Lobster” easy to crack into despite its outlandish premise is create a universe in which its idiosyncrasies were the norm. Everyone talked in stilted speech with quick basic sentences and an underlying level of social awkwardness. The same technique is employed with “Sacred Deer,” which allows the film to be rooted in somewhat of an alternate universe where everyone talks differently and really strange things happen.

It’s easy to see how some audience members may confuse Farrell’s performance in both films, for example, to be simplistic and odd. In reality, Farrell is giving a fantastic performance that helps establish the setting. The revelation in this film, however, is Keoghan who gives a super creepy and darkly funny performance.

The narrative itself, while not as creative as “The Lobster,” still works pretty well as an updated take on a classic tragedy, provided you are able to buy in. It may not have a terrible amount to say metaphorically but it is well paced, features great tension and is fascinating to watch play out, even if you have an idea of where the story is going.

With the amount of by the numbers, run of the mill storytelling that happens every week at the theater, anyone doing something different is a breath of fresh air. Lanthimos clearly has a warped sense of humor and a keen eye for story telling that is absurd and fantastical while remaining intimate and grounded. “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” may not be one of the better films of the year, but its certainly one of the purest forms of an artist distilling his singular vision into a unique movie going experience.