Yorgos Lanthimos's previous films (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) have been critically acclaimed but have proven a little baffling to audiences on occasion.
His latest, The Favourite, another feather in the cap of Irish production company Element Pictures, pulls off the double whammy of being popular with critics and really broadly accessible. Clever, beautiful, fantastically acted, saucy, dark and really funny, it's an absolute gem.
The film is based on real people but the action is mostly imagined. In the early 1700s, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is a complex mix of illness, grief, lust and petulance. She is surrounded by male politicians, chiefly Godolphin (James Smith) and Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult) who wish to sway her in different directions but Anne mostly accedes to the wishes and advice of her close friend since childhood, Lady Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). Lady Sarah is canny, interested and power hungry, and she plays the cards she has. When her cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) falls on hard times, Sarah takes her under her wing. But Abigail shares her cousin's ambition, and some of her tricks. It gets tense.
The screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara is fast, sharp and funny. The costumes and lighting are reminiscent of Peter Greenaway, it's like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, but it is also very All About Eve whilst managing to be entirely itself. The moral ambiguity really works and the characters are so beautifully drawn and portrayed, Colman in particular shines. It still won't be everyone's cup of tea, but what is? And if The Lobster baffled you a bit, this won't. ★★★★★ Aine O'Connor
Carell hits the right note as a model lead
Welcome to Marwen Cert: 12A; Opens Tuesday
Mark Hogancamp was left hospitalised following a violent assault outside a bar after admitting to being a cross-dresser. Head trauma all but wiped out his memory, but he made a miraculous comeback by creating detailed model dioramas populated by World War II avatars of the people in his life.
The bizarre case was first brought to our attention in the 2010 doc Marwencol, and now finds a dramatised outlet via director and co-producer Robert Zemeckis (The Back to the Future films, Forrest Gump) who clearly saw potential in its Zeitgeist-capturing themes.
Much of the screenplay takes place within Mark's imagined world where the issues of his life are reflected in a comicbook version of the war. Here, Mark (Steve Carell) is a heroic GI, while the women who have helped his recovery are Nazi-slaying avenging angels (a noteworthy cabal made up of Janelle Monae, Gwendoline Christie, Eiza Gonzalez and Merritt Wever). Added to this team is Nicol (Leslie Mann), a beautiful soul who moves in across the street from Mark. The plot hinges on the stumbling block he meets when he has to face his attackers in court.
It takes a while for the peculiar premise to settle in, what with the constant toggling back and forward between the macro and the everyday.
Once it does, however, this hums with an affectionate absurdity. Carell once again proves a buoyant and dexterous leading man. ★★★★ Hilary A White
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