“You’ve Got A Unique Sound And We Believe We Can Help You Get It Released By A Major Label…”
Whilst not at all a film about the origins of the infamous menthol lozenges which just happen to share a similar title, Fisherman’s Friends instead brings to the big screen the miraculous rise to fame of the Port Isaac Fisherman’s Friends, the ale-loving, overly traditionalist band of male singers who broke into the UK music charts back in 2010. Directed by British filmmaker, Chris Foggin, in his second big screen release after 2016’s Kids in Love starring Will Poulter, Fisherman’s Friends takes a rather BBC Two approach to a story which airs on the side of cheesy as we see Daniel Mays (The Limehouse Golem) as Danny, an influential and respected music mogul who after venturing on a stag do down to sunny Cornwall with his friends and seedy boss, Troy, as played by Doctor Who legend, Noel Clarke, is asked to sign to his label the local singing group led by the gruff figure of James Purefoy’s (Altered Carbon) Jim. Falling somewhere between the annoying flatness of The Aftermath and the well executed splendour of Colette, Fisherman’s Friends is the type of film which feels nicely planted in the background of an afternoon tea, and whilst films of similar ilk aren’t necessarily entirely bad, they do beg the question why the feel the need to be up on the big screen in the first place.
Shot with the same kind of televisual aesthetic you’d get from an episode of Countryfile, Fisherman’s Friends ticks all the boxes you sort of expect when heading into a movie based on what pretty much is Cornwall’s answer to Led Zeppelin, and with a cheerful, ludicrously mood-inducing soundtrack which wouldn’t seem amiss on a jukebox for the near-dead, Foggin’s movie absolutely reeks of cliche and gag-inducing corniess from the offset. With Mays offering the sort of semi-likeable, leather jacket toting lead performance as he blunders his way through the smell of salt water and seagulls, the real standout of the piece is undoubtedly Purefoy, who superbly radiates a sense of internal conflict as he balances new found fame with the responsibilities of a life both inland and on the fair seas, and with the interactions between the group in general pretty well handled, it’s sort of a shame that all of the top-end jokes were spoiled in the trailers, resulting in a resounding silence as everyone else laughed in the cinema apart from me when they inevitably arrived. Topping up just under two hours, it’s no surprise that the movie does become an absolute drag as it finally arrives at its destination without harming anyone at all in the process, Fisherman’s Friends isn’t exactly bad, it’s just A Star is Born for the Cornish minus all the good parts and a film more than suitable for your bed-ridden aunt. Bring the tea and biscuits.
Overall Score: 5/10
“The Only Voices I Heard Were Joan Rivers And Tupac. And They Did Not Get Along…”
Acting as a wholly unnecessary and unwarranted “loose” remake of the Mel Gibson led What Women Want from 2000, Hairspray and Rock of Ages director, Adam Shankman, directs What Men Want, a terribly handled and woefully inept attempt at some form of comedy which sees Taraji P. Henson (Hidden Figures) take the lead role as Alison Davis, a successful sports agents who is left by the wayside after failing to be accepted for a work promotion in favour of her annoying, mostly white, big-headed colleagues. On the subsequent night out used to rid herself of her man-hating anger, she soon takes cues from Amy Schumer in I Feel Pretty by being the subject of an accidental injury which after a swift overnight recovery, leaves her with the ability to read the mind of every male she comes into contact with. Whilst I’m all for trashy comedies which regardless of their overall quality actually manage to make me laugh in the ilk of Bad Moms, Shankman’s latest is unsurprisingly a woefully inept, painfully unfunny two hours, one made worse with obvious notions of grandeur which attempt to tap into the #MeToo generation and ends up landing face down in a burning bit of awfulness as it crawls its’ way to the credits and offers you salvation away from what is one of the worst remakes there is and ever will be.
With a fundamental false step from the outset as the movie attempts to introduce Henson’s supposedly charming, lead character, the fact that I nearly left the cinema after being in her company for only twenty minutes didn’t exactly bode well heading forward. Whilst I appreciate a movie led by a female in a position of power, for some unknown and bizarre reason, Shankman’s direction allows Henson to become a screaming, irritating black hole of annoyance in the ilk of Lucas Cruikshank in Fred: The Movie as she literally bellows her dialogue from the far reaches of her annoying mouth for pretty much the entirety of the film’s opening act. As the movie moves more into the mystical aspect, the word cliche doesn’t even cover it, and as we stumble through the inevitable hook-ups and notions of deception cooked up by Hanson’s Davis, her character becomes even more despicable after she takes advantage of the one saving grace in the movie in the form of Aldis Hodge’s (Hidden Figures) Will, a thoughtful, calmly spoken single father who for some reason finds Davis absolutely irresistible. Whilst I am aware that What Men Want doesn’t exactly have myself in mind when it comes to the desired target audience, with (massive stereotype incoming) the film primarily designed for drunken female sleepovers and bachelor parties, such a point doesn’t shy away from the fact that Shankman’s movie was an utter drag from start to finish. Woeful.
Overall Score: 3/10
“Good Morning, Wrestling Nerds. This Is Where We See Whether Or Not You Get To Go On The WWE…”
With an absolute absence of knowledge pertaining to anything slightly resembling the world of wrestling, with my own views regarding the slightly absurd money making machine something of which I might just keep restrained for this particular review, it’s fair to say that Fighting With My Family is the type of rags-to-riches true story which from an outsiders point of view, would have to spoon feed me the rise of Saraya “Paige” Bevis, the Norwich born, heavy metal loving hard-ass who became the youngest wrestling champion ever at the age of twenty one. Written and directed by the immediately recognisable figure of Stephen Merchant (The Office, Logan) and backed financially by WWE Studios, whos previous endeavours include erm, The Scorpion King and Leprechaun: Origins to name a few, Fighting With My Family takes the cliched, formulaic approach to bringing the story of Paige to the big screen, and whilst such genre conventions force the underlying narrative to be more than overly predictable, even for someone without knowing the wrestling back story heading in, Merchant’s movie succeeds due to other elements elsewhere, with warm, interesting characters and a charming, likeable sensibility pushing his movie into what can only be regarded as just a damn fine, if overly cheesy, time at the flicks.
With the superbly talented Florence Pugh (Lady Macbeth) taking the leading role as Paige, her iconic accent and emo-inflicted personality immediately offers an element of depth thanks to a central performance which manages to completely immerse you in the journey she undertakes from the rocky roads of Norfolk to the absurdity of the big stage in the sun soaked shores of America. Whilst the film revels in portraying the ills of a Rocky style training camp and the drill sergeant-esque manner from a rather finely tuned supporting performance from Vince Vaughn (Brawl in Cell Block 99) as Paige’s talent scout and mentor, Merchant never seems to forget the core family unit which Paige leaves behind back home, and whilst Pugh is undoubtedly the leading star, the screenplay also balances the effect her newly found fame has on her brother, Zak, as portrayed by Jack Lowden (Dunkirk) whose dreams of capturing the world’s imagination on the biggest platform available are soon crushed as he watches his younger sibling take the road to stardom instead. With scene stealing supporting comedic roles from the always reliable Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz) and Lena Headey (Game of Thrones), Fighting With My Family of course oozes saccharin sweetness and cheesy sentimentality, but when a film is made with enough heart and soul to bypass such flaws, the end result is and hour and forty minutes of good old fashioned lovey-dovey entertainment, even with some rather egoistic cameos from Dwayne Johnson.
Overall Score: 7/10
“When You Drive The Same Road Day After Day, It’s Easy To Think About The Road Not Taken…”
Making the headlines recently for some rather interesting and Twitter inciting comments, Liam Neeson returns to the big screen once again in Cold Pursuit, an interesting, off-beat and knowingly extravagant crime drama which sees Neeson resorting back to the sort of role audiences have come to expect from him ever since the successful release of Taken back in 2008. With Steve McQueen’s, Widows, last year marking a slight return to top dramatic form for the actor, Neeson’s latest doesn’t exactly manage to fall into the same level of cinematic greatness, but with a particularly strange, genre-crossing blend of Coen style black comedy and at times, the rather jerking cinematic sensibility of Yorgos Lanthimos, Cold Pursuit is still a rather enjoyable, if overly pointless, B-movie revenge flick. Acting as a direct American remake of the 2014 Swedish flick, In Order of Disappearance, starring the one and only Stellan Skarsgård, the director of the original, Hans Peter Molland, follows in the footsteps of Michael Haneke by choosing to take charge of the English speaking version by himself as we drop into the life of Neeson’s Nelson Coxman, the recently awarded “Citizen of the Year” from the ski and tourism heavy locale of Kehoe, who suddenly chooses to take sweet and merciless revenge against a local gang organisation after his son is found dead.
Whilst the set up is the a-typical Liam Neeson cinematic vehicle many have come to expect from an actor who has seemed to have revelled in a latter day shift into action flicks, Cold Pursuit boldly attempts to stick out from the likes of Taken, The Commuter or Run All Night by subverting the rather serious tones prevalent in Neeson’s previous and almost coming across as a cheeky, overly knowing micky take. With Neeson’s Coxman shifting from ordinary everyman to cold hearted hitman in the space of about thirty seconds, it’s fair to say that character development isn’t exactly the top priority for Molland, whose decision to play the drama as an uncanny blend of Fargo and Death Wish works rather effectively for the opening hour as we are introduced to the varied strands of character groups including the local police department and the raging war between Tom Bateman’s (Murder on the Orient Express) mentally unstable drug lord, Viking, and Tom Jackson’s Native American crime boss, White Bull. Whilst the sensibility of the film is fun enough to sort of hold together, the film is ironically personified by a recurring motif in which after every character death is an on-screen epitaph to the respected fallen, a particularly odd element which on the first couple of uses are rather giggle-inducing, yet after the fifty eighth time, does become slightly tiresome, a phrase which come the end of almost two hours of pointless violence and murder, pretty much sums up the film rather nicely, and whilst Cold Pursuit isn’t the worst latter life Neeson flick, see Taken 3 for reference point, it sure ain’t no Taken. Although I’m still not sure who’s driving the boat.
Overall Score: 6/10
“People Who Take In Foster Kids Are Really Special. The Kind Of People Who Volunteer When It’s Not Even A Holiday…”
When it comes to the chiseled figure of Marky Mark Wahlberg within a cinematic capacity, the American seems to have made peace with a strange trajectory which sees him on the one hand perform brilliantly on a dramatic level, with the likes of The Departed, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day some of the many standouts from his more serious body of work, and then choose to completely sink himself into the world of American comedies, which for the majority of the time, absolutely suck. Reuniting with Daddy’s Home director, Sean Anders, for Instant Family therefore, you can understand my predisposed prejudice at a movie which judging by the rather soppy and cringe-laden trailers, would be yet another painstakingly awful addition to Mr. Wahlberg’s bipolar back catalogue. However, much like seeing England win at a major tournament or finding a twenty pound note floating upon the pavement, miracles do indeed happen, and whilst I ventured into Instant Family with a frightful expression and a warm cup of coffee in order to keep myself awake, the latest collaboration between Wahlberg and Anders is surprisingly a well made, touching, and most importantly, a genuinely hilarious family drama, one which balances saccharin sweetness with poignant notions of contemporary societal issues amidst a screenplay which does a pretty good job of getting the tone just right for an idea which had all the tell-tell signs for going drastically wrong.
Beginning by introducing the immediately good natured and optimistic pairing of Wahlberg’s Pete and Rose Byrne’s (Insidious) Ellie, the film sees the married couple attempt to bring youthful joy into their lives through the adoption programme, much to the dissatisfaction of both their close friends and family, and after failing to successfully adhere to their wishes of believing that the younger the child is, the better, they soon agree to care for Isabela Moner’s (Sicario 2: Soldado) fifteen year old Lizzy and her two younger, and rather strenuous, siblings. Cue dinner time disasters, countless lengths of sleep cut short and the ultimate fear of sassy teenage angst, Instant Family does indeed take a slight while to get going as it puts all the pieces in place before the adoption takes place, but once the family unit come together, their home life soon becomes akin to a ketchup covered war zone as Ellie and Pete soon believe such a decision may be slightly out of their inexperienced depth. With the screenplay from Anders and John Morris managing to blend rib-tickling comedic set pieces with elements of humane, emotional drama, the story succeeds in making you care for each and every character as we observe the connections and relationships that are built, and with dedicated performances, particularly from Moner who follows on from her scene-stealing role in Sicario 2: Soldado with an equally impressive portrayal of a complex character, Instant Family is an utter delight which although nearly derails everything thanks to an awfully cheesy final act, gets away with it completely and lets you leave with a good old fashioned grin glanced across your chops.
Overall Score: 7/10
“You Can Be An Asshole If You’re Famous. You Can’t Be Unknown And Be Such A Bitch, Lee…”
With Melissa McCarthy always succeeding in managing to send a particularly large and unwelcome chill down the length of my back each and every time I see her name plastered across a new cinematic release, the early murmurings of a movie which not only featured McCarthy taking on something different to her normal adolescent, awfully timed comedic nightmares, but one in which the American was actually rather splendid too, immediately raised my film reviewing eyebrows in the hope of something majestic, even if a slight whiff of trepidation remained due to the almost painful recollection of her involvement in 2018’s worst film by quite a considerable distance, The Happytime Murders. Based on the controversial figure of American author, Lee Israel, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the latest from U.S based filmmaker, Marielle Heller, whose best known work includes Transparent and The Diary of a Teenage Girl, does indeed take full advantage of the best on-screen features which McCarthy has to offer, with Heller’s movie supplying the actress with a role in which she undoubtedly sinks her teeth into, even within the confines of a central narrative which does annoyingly fail to ever secure adequate lift off, but with a clear sense of acting dedication and a faintly interesting premise, McCarthy’s latest is indeed a step in the right direction, albeit one which doesn’t exactly hold a torch to the rather bemusing critical acclaim which has been showered upon it.
Highlighting from the outset the rather depressive, downbeat sensibility of McCarthy’s Israel, the movie opens after her brief success in the world of writing due to her well received biography of Estée Lauder and her attempts to reignite such attention by conducting research for a novel based around the life of Fanny Brice. Living in a dingy, unkempt one bedroom apartment with only her unwell feline friend to keep her company, Israel suddenly falls upon a letter bearing the writing of Brice herself, only to discover that the world of fraudulently constructed letters from the pen name of dead famous authors actually pays significantly well, a notion seen as the ultimate cure for her less than graceful financial and personal situation. Aided by the HIV ridden, crafty, streetwise hand of local drug dealer, Jack Hock, played in outrageously entertaining form by the now Oscar nominated, Richard E. Grant (Logan) the pair soon begin a successful partnership within the fraud business as they make their way around the local area in order to pawn off as many convincing letters as humanly possible. With a familiar rise and fall narrative regarding the discovery and punishment of criminal undertakings, the most effective element of Heller’s movie is undoubtedly the central relationship between Hock and Israel, with both parties managing to balance each other out in the category of total societal retrogrades, whilst the swift back and forth quip-laden interchanges are both smart and excellently directed. However, with Grant bringing charm to burn, the focus on McCarthy ultimately results in no sympathetic link whatsoever, resulting in actions and consequences which are observed but never really fully engaged upon, and with strange narrative asides which go absolutely nowhere come the credits screen, Can You Ever Forgive Me? is the type of independant release which could have been better served with both a better editor and an extra slice of flash to at least living things up, resulting in Heller’s movie falling into the category of interesting, but not exactly memorable.
Overall Score: 6/10
“You Never Win With Violence. You Only Win When You Maintain Your Dignity…”
Arriving in the United Kingdom just in time for the Academy Awards later in the month, the multi nominated drama, Green Book, comes forth with an abundance of critical pleasantries and expectation that amongst the likes of A Star is Born and Roma, the small, independent latest from the director of Shallow Hal and erm, Dumb and Dumber To may pip such works of excellence to the post of walking away with Best Picture. Based on the true life relationship between African-American jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and the Italian-American streetwise bouncer, Tony Vallelonga, Green Book is a quaint, engaging and highly entertaining dramatic crowd-pleaser which floats gently across the line between saccharin and sweet as it blends together two opposing figures of 1960’s America with enough charm and interesting underlying subplots to gloss over a story which many audiences have already seen before. With many declaring Green Book as essentially a contemporary adaptation of Driving Miss Daisy, albeit with a particular twist regarding the ethnicity of both driver and passenger, Peter Farrelly’s latest shines brightest when left in the company of the film’s leading stars, with both Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence) and Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) both providing stand out performances worthy of their recognition from this year’s Oscars, and whilst Green Book as a whole fails to match the excellence of its’ brothers in the field of Best Picture, the particular parts which do happen to shine brightest are indeed worthy of taking the time to seek out and admire.
With the movie opening with Mortensen’s Vallelonga, the work dependant, cocky hustler burdened with the apt nickname of “Tony Lip” due to his almost joyous penchant for saying things as he sees them, the screenplay concocted from a combination of Farrelly, Brian Currie and Tony’s son, Nick Vallelonga, allows the first act of the movie to swiftly play out with a fun sense of purpose as we bear witness to Tony’s alarming appetite for food, his ever-expanding family and his reluctant on-off relationship with the local crime gangs. Seeking gainful employment after being predisposed from his work as a bouncer, Tony falls upon the graces of Ali’s Don Shirley, a majestically cultured and wonderfully talented pianist who enlists the services of Tony as he makes his way into the deep South in order to fulfill his promise of a musical tour. As the screenplay moves into an almost road movie-esque sensibility, it is here where the comedic element of Farrelly really shines, with gorgeous interplay between both Tony and Shirley resulting in some genuinely memorable and laugh-out loud set pieces as we gradually see the differences between both both come together in a clear synchronisation of loving friendship. Whilst the clear racial undertones of the piece begin interesting and poignant, the repetitive nature of such a notion does become slightly tiresome come the end, with Green Book undoubtedly the type of movie where the nuanced approach fits the mood of the piece better than the show-stopping, award seeking monologues which the trailers are filled with, but with two really superb central performances from reliable and watchable actors with a clear admiration for the script, Green Book is a really heartwarming slice of drama, just served with extra cheese.
Overall Score: 7/10
“It Has Been My Honor To Be Your Servant. You Chose Me. And I Did What You Asked…”
Reuniting the rather excellent filmmaking team behind 2016’s The Big Short, Vice, brings to the big screen a rather scathing, politically one-sided depiction of the rise and fall of one of America’s most infamous contemporary political figureheads, Dick Cheney, the Nebraskan born figure of ruthlessness who during the course of almost three decades rose to great prominence within the White House, eventually earning the title of the most powerful vice president in history in his time within the rather controversial Bush presidency at the turn of the twentieth century. Directed by Adam McKay, whose success with The Big Short seems to have thankfully pushed him away from the laddish cringiness of the likes of Step Brothers forevermore, Vice follows a very familial cinematic layout to the Oscar winning drama by essentially portraying a contemporary and highly controversial issue with a balance of both black comedy and seriousness, one led by the seemingly interchangeable figure of Christian Bale (The Dark Knight) who once again goes full-on The Machinist, albeit in reverse, by utilising the skills of prosthetics and his local takeaway in order to pull off a rather outstanding central performance in what is a considerably flashy ensemble acting piece. Slapped with a guarantee to inflame and provoke immediate discussion on both sides of the political fence, Vice is an explicit, highly intriguing, and at times, genuinely terrifying, depiction of modern politics in action which continues the notion that when handed the right material, McKay can truly be a standout figure of importance within the world of issue-based cinema.
Beginning with the successful rise of Christian Bale’s Cheney as he quickly progresses from drunken college dropout to falling under the wing of Steve Carell’s (Beautiful Boy) charismatic and wickedly devious, Donald Rumsfeld, McKay’s movie utilises the opening chapters in order to establish the unbreakable relationship within the Cheney household, with Amy Adams’ (Arrival) Lynne equally as power hungry as her aspiring husband, albeit burdened by her understanding of the limitations of her gender in the world of American politics. With it absolutely impossible to fit in every single point of interest within Cheney’s alarmingly elongated career, the central narrative of the movie begins and ends with the events of 9/11, a time in which Cheney’s tunnel vision for power is most clearly represented, and whilst at times the movie seems to disregard levels of depth for characters who seem to come and go, it comes at no surprise that those already slightly invested in such a crucial time in American politics may feel the ride much easier than those with absolutely zero interest or awareness of the events which occurred at the start of the twenty first century. Being part of the latter, the chance to witness Sam Rockwell portray (Three Billboards) George W. Bush as a drunken, easily led simpleton is almost too delicious to turn down, even when the film refuses to hold back in reminding the audience of the terrifying devastation at the heart of his particular tenure as President.
Whilst comparisons to The Big Short are obviously rather inevitable in terms of the storytelling, the most obvious and in-your-face connection between the two movies is of course the flashy, quickfire editing technique which McKay utilises so heavy in order to convey the many ideas floating around his head onto the big screen. With almost an uncanny sense of being handed subliminal messaging at times, the storytelling is constantly intercut with random segments of imagery and seemingly relevant newsreel footage which are used to reinforce the overarching political standing at the heart of the movie. With Jesse Plemons (Game Night) this time handed the reigns as narrator, Vice surprisingly never seems gimmicky or too confusing, with the constant editing shifts actually balancing the rather heavy and hectic central plot involving political jargon and offers a somewhat release and breakaway from characters who at the end of the day, are all downright slimey and evil to their core. With Bale supplying the archetypal, Marlon Brando-esque sense of commitment to the lead role of Cheney, Vice supplies the platform for yet another awards touted performance full of grandiose presence, even when the real life Cheney himself was renowned for being something of a introverted, slightly muted charisma vacuum. Whilst I was always destined to admire a piece of work with a political standpoint which pretty much aligns with my own when it comes to the downright illegal doings of one of the most infamous presidencies in history, Vice crucially did not disappoint and managed to handle the difficult subject matter with relative ease, supplying an excellent follow up to The Big Short and getting me excited for whatever Team McKay decide to do next.
Overall Score: 8/10
“You’re Not Leaving, Are You, Stan? The Show Must Go On…”
Directed by Scottish filmmaker, Jon S. Baird, perhaps most famous for bringing Irvine Welsh’s scorchingly jet black comedy, Filth, to the big screen back in 2013, Stan and Ollie very much steps in the complete opposite direction, with Baird’s latest a surprisingly low key and slightly muted biographical drama focusing on the later lives of both Stanley Laurel and Oliver Hardy as played by Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge) and John C. Reilly (We Need To Talk About Kevin) respectively. Based on a screenplay from Jeff Pope who reunites with Coogan after their work together on the Bafta winning, Philomena, Baird’s latest primarily drops the audience into the tail end of the legendary comedy duos’ career, one previously stuffed with fame, fortune and rapturous critical plaudits but which has now seemingly fizzled out, resulting in the middle aged stars returning to the shores of the UK in order to secure the finances for a potential big screen project. With a central screenplay which chooses to rely primarily on the central relationship between the two stars, Stan and Ollie is a charming yet frustrating movie, one which works on the strength of its’ leading performers but ultimately feels significantly flat in its’ storytelling approach, resulting in a movie which fails to ever feel cinematic and would probably be better served on the small screen rather than in a multiplex where it may fail to garner significant audience interest.
With Pope’s screenplay relatively straightforward and simple, to the extent that the movie almost felt as if it could have been made in the era of its’ leading characters, the neutral sensibility of the movie does ultimately lack any real push, flash or energy to propel the movie into another gear, and in comparison to the likes of other biographical dramas which focus on central historical figures much less charismatic and well known than the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Baird’s movie does ultimately feel somewhat of a missed opportunity when examining the piece as a whole. Where the film does ultimately work however is in the strengths of particular building blocks which make up the final piece, with none more so than the central superbly cast pairing of Coogan and Reilly who embrace the sweaty, exhausting lifestyles of men attempting to revamp their careers after decades of excessive levels of fame. With Coogan slightly more reserved in his comedic output in comparison to his previous on-screen roles, the tender balance between himself and the prosthetics heavy Reilly relies on a level of substance and depth which is completely absent from any other character relationships within the movie, particularly that of the criminally wasted female characters including the wonderful Shirley Henderson. With the best parts of the movie undoubtedly the pair’s reenactment of particular famous Laurel and Hardy sketches, it goes without saying that when a film seems stretched even with a ninety minute runtime, something seems to have been lost in translation, but with the beaming smiles of Coogan and Reilly to help you through to the end, Stan and Ollie is good enough, just not as spectacular and memorable as its’ central iconic subjects.
Overall Score: 6/10
“As It Turns Out, I’m Capable Of Much Unpleasantness…”
With one of the weirdest, oddball and critically acclaimed back catalogues in recent history, Greek filmmaker, Yorgos Lanthimos, returns to the world of cinema once again after the success of 2017’s excellent, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, with The Favourite, an award touted period drama which reunites the director with Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) after their work together on 2015’s equally baffling, The Lobster. Based on a screenplay from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, Lanthimos’ movie sees Colman as Queen Anne, a reclusive and emotionally unstable British ruler at the beginning of the 18th century who has come to rely on the charm and power of Rachel Weisz’s (My Cousin Rachel) Sarah Churchill, her abiding and secretive confidant who has grasped the true power of the monarch whilst the Queen procrastinates with luxurious pastimes in order to make the days go by. In the midst of wartime discussions and power struggles however, Anne is suddenly mesmerised by the recent acquisition of Emma Stone’s (La La Land) lady-turned-servant, Abigail Hill, who takes no time whatsoever in attempting to creep into the ear of the Queen herself, resulting in the creation of a vicious and violent rift between herself and the steely gaze of Churchill who takes no pleasure in watching her power over the Queen slowly drift way.
With Lanthimos throughout his career failing to ever be plastered with the term, predictable, The Favourite primarily relies on the preposterousness of the central drama to differentiate itself from just another period piece, with the slightly off-kilter and bizarre tone which the Greek’s films are renowned for immediately sending alarm bells to those audiences heading in unaware of the works of Lanthimos or expecting a cinematic equivalent to Netflix’s, The Crown, but for those well versed in the ways and means of a filmmaker who knows how to cultivate such oddities to perfection, the absurdity of the piece ultimately suits the overarching sensibility of a film bound to raise discussion. With the three pronged central performances from Colman, Stone and Weisz all absolutely top notch, the central conflicting duplicity between all involved immediately brought to mind the likes of My Cousin Rachel, with Weisz essentially portraying a very similar counterpart to her role in such a film albeit with less ambiguity, whilst Colman superbly manages to balance on the one hand a primarily fool-type role which is undoubtedly played for laughs for the majority of the film, and on the other, a person riddled with conflict, mental health issues and an abundance of loss and grief, a notion personified by the over-reliance on rabbits which are kept closely within her chambers. With one of the most subversive, surreal and simply baffling conclusions to a movie I can remember seeing for a significant amount of time, Lanthimos’ movie is by no means his trip into the conventional, with The Favourite managing to retain the darkened edge the Greek has become accustomed to but too a movie which brings home a triage of powerhouse performances which deserves the plaudits which have been raining down upon them.