Director Yorgos Lanthimos adds a dose of wicked, whiplash humor to his usual bleakness in this largely effective costume movie, filled with deep-focus visuals and strong, ferocious women. Lanthimos' previous movies -- like Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer -- were relentlessly dystopian and malicious, and The Favourite continues that worldview. There are few, if any, good people in Lanthimos' movies. But this time, thanks perhaps to a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the iffy behavior can at least inspire laughter.
It helps that both Stone and Weisz are so good and so brilliantly cast. Most actors in these kinds of movies tend to get swallowed up by the costumes, the stiff dialogue, and the stagnant visuals. But Stone is clever, perky, and playful, and Weisz is cool, decisive, and sensual; they clash beautifully. Lanthimos uses an ultra-wide-angle lens that causes rooms to warp as it pans, and this creates a distinctly off-kilter quality, adding to the nightmarishness of the world. (It also makes things a bit more kinetic.) But in the end, the back-and-forth between the two central characters doesn't really have an ending, and The Favourite drags on too long before fizzling out. Thankfully, Colman's winning, unfettered performance as the petulant queen is a memorable takeaway.