Betrayals, icy glares, and splatters of blood, that all looks about right. The only thing missing is Lanthimos’ trademark speech patterns, due to the fact that this is the first film since his debut where he isn’t a credited writer.
“Dearest Queen, you are mad,” says Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), setting the tone for what’s to come. As it turns out, the Queen (Olivia Colman) is giving her a palace, a ludicrous expense during wartime. “We won!” the Queen exclaims, apparently not realizing that the fighting is far from over, highlighting just how brilliant Colman is going to be in this role.
A fisheye lens captures the Queen collapsing in front of an audience, giving us a taste of how Lanthimos looks to add his signature off-kilter style to this 18th century period piece. “Everyone leaves me, and dies,” she says, as we experience the day to day misery of her life, being “stalked by tragedy.” A pain that not even Lady Sarah can alleviate. Which is where Abigail (Emma Stone) comes in.
The Oscar-winning actress has an entrance that’s hardly dignified, being thrown out of a stagecoach into the mud. She arrives at the royal palace, still covered in dirt, looking to offer her services. She immediately butts heads with Sarah, hinting at the bitter rivalry to come. “A monster for the children to play with,” Sarah quips, in reference to what role Abigail could occupy.
After being doused with water, Abigail is then seen meeting eyes with the Queen, hinting at their flourishing romance. After a walk with Harley (Nicholas Hoult), she begins to settle into her role at the Queen’s side, telling her, “If I were a man I would ravish you.” Much to the dismay of Sarah, who watches on sternly at the two sharing a dance. She later refers to Abigail as “a viper,” which the Queen shrugs off as mere jealousy. After bluntly telling her that Abigail must be sent away, only to be rejected, Sarah takes matters into her own hands.
“Let’s shoot something,” Lady Sarah tells Abigail with a dastardly grin on her face, Weisz perfectly selling every drop of hatred with her face. A stunned Abigail is shot in the side, as Sarah practically cackles over her. Things take a turn, as Stone delivers a chilling line– “I’m on my side, always,” as she shoots a pigeon out of the sky, splattering blood all over Sarah’s face. War has been declared, as the music (and the trailer) ramps up into full weird territory.
Lady Sarah smirks at an enraged Abigail, as the Queen rests on her shoulders. “As it turns out I’m capable of much unpleasantness,” Abigail snarls, as we see her kick a man in the groin for trying to kiss her. Queen Anne yells at an unsuspecting child, demanding that he look at her and then turn away immediately. All before Abigail smacks herself in the face with a book, followed by a shot of her in tears.
She and Lady Sarah then trade insults — “If you do not go, I will start kicking you,” and hurl books at each other. We also get a glimpse of what I imagine is a standard dinner party for Lanthimos, complete with insane dancing and flame-spitting.
The trailer then wraps up with another terrific moment between Stone and Weisz, as Abigail has apparently left Lady Sarah for dead somewhere, commenting on her return from “Hell, I’m sure you shall pass through it one day.” The Queen looks on, seemingly amused by their fighting over her affection. Abigail snorts with laughter, giving her another sharp glare.
All things considered, The Favourite appears to be pretty spectacular. The leading trio of performances, by Stone, Weisz, and Colman, look fantastic and will hopefully give all three some much-deserved awards buzz. Stone’s accent and general demeanor look very enticing and Colman has proven time and time again her ability to deliver in any role she’s given. And if Lanthimos’ previous efforts are anything to go by, this one will get weird.