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‘The Favourite’ Dazzles Venice, Critics Go Wild For Yorgos Lanthimos’ ‘Savage’ and ‘Bonkers’ Period Drama

Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz bring star power to Lanthimos' latest effort, but British darling Olivia Colman is stealing all the buzz.

Emma Stone, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Olivia Colman

David Fisher/Shutterstock

Fox Searchlight dominated the 2017-18 Oscar season with “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” and “The Shape of Water,” the latter of which won honors for best director and best picture. The studio is betting on Yorgos Lanthimos this year, the Greek auteur behind “The Lobster” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” whose idiosyncratic style can be hard to love. Fortunately for Fox Searchlight, critics are falling in love with Lanthimos’ latest, “The Favourite,” following its Venice Film Festival world premiere.

“The Favorite” stars Lanthimos’ “Lobster” stars Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz as Queen Anne and her trusted friend and advisor Lady Sarah, respectively. Despite waging a war against France, the Queen spends her days more concerned with duck racing and pineapple eating while Lady Sarah rules from behind her shoulder. Governing the country gets complicated when a new servant arrives (Emma Stone) with plans of her own to become Anne’s advisor.

IndieWire’s Michael Nordine hailed “The Favourite” as Lanthimos’ best film to date in his “A-” review, calling it the director’s “crowning achievement.” Lanthimos’ previous efforts have divided film critics due to their monotone dialogue and bursts of graphic violence, but most critics are praising the director for maintaining his style while pushing himself in a more accessible direction.

“Wider exposure hasn’t come at the cost of his unique sensibility,” Nordine writes. “The mainstream has come to Lanthimos, not the other way around. His comedy remains pitch black, his characters still speak of grave matters in monotone, and sudden outbursts of violence are never far away.”

“The Favorite” has earned similarly ecstatic reviews from The Film Stage (“a zany and exhilarating period drama” that’s “endlessly quotable and serendipitously timely”), TIME (“a wicked delight, a fantastic little cupcake of a movie laced with thistle frosting”), The Playlist (“deeply hilarious and fabulously entertaining”), and The Telegraph (“a skewer-sharp and scabrously funny film”). Nearly all critics have raves for the three main performances, with Colman’s work being singled out across the board.

“Olivia Colman couldn’t get any better,” Peter Bradshaw writes in his four-star review for “The Guardian.” “She steps up to movie-star lead status with an uproarious performance as Britain’s needy and emotionally wounded Queen Anne in this bizarre black comedy of the 18th-century court.”

“The Favourite” is even managing to convert critics who didn’t fall for Lanthimos’ previous efforts. Variety’s Owen Gleiberman writes in his glowing review that “The Favourite” finally showed him the full realization of Lanthimos’ talents on the big screen.

“Even from my doubting vantage, it’s hard to deny that Lanthimos has found an ideal vehicle for his pitiless gaze and darkly mocking formal severity,” he writes. “It’s a perfectly cut diamond of a movie — a finely executed, coldly entertaining entry in the genre of savage misanthropic baroque costume drama.”

Fox Searchlight next takes “The Favourite” to Telluride this weekend. The movie will also screen on opening night of the New York Film Festival before opening in theaters November 23.

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