The Favourite's a Delight

The Favourite is pretty great.  I don't place a lot of stock in the Academy Awards (with "Best Pictures" like Crash, Forrest Gump, The Greatest Show On Earth and Gladiator, the terrible habit of giving awards to actors for mediocre performances because they were "due" from years of routinely overlooked roles, etc etc), but this is one I was pleased to see nominated for multiple Oscars, and Olivia Colman taking one home.  I thought The Killing Of a Sacred Deer was interesting and definitely worth watching once, but this is the first Yorgos Lanthimos film I've really been taken with and needed to add to my collection.  And now, this March we can finally do just that, with a DVD/ blu-ray combo pack courtesy of 20th Century Fox.
I've seen people get bent out of shape for the liberties this film takes with historical accuracy, but that couldn't be further from the point.  I was actually surprised how rooted in real events so much of this story was, as it's a delightfully wicked melodrama, in the vein of Amadeus, Dangerous Liasons or Gothic.  Arguing how unlikely it is that Lord Byron ever showed Percy Shelley an Asian stripping robot is probably correct but really failing to get into the proper spirit of the thing.  Lanthimos hasn't come to teach us a history lesson; Shakespearian-level liberties are being freely taken, and I think experience has proven there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.  If you need to, think of this as another Gormenghast.  Heck, I was impressed to learn there even was an actual Lady Abigail at all.
The set-up is fairly simple: said Abigail (Emma Stone) is a former aristocrat who's lost her station in life and come to serve at the palace.  Hoping to be employed some sort of nanny for the queen (Colman), she's instead put to work in the nasty dungeonous kitchens with the lower servants.  She's going to have to muster up all of her cunning and treachery to rise up back up to a livable social status in a court that's given sway to corruption and debauchery.  Winning the queen's favor seems easy at first, but she's soon at odds with the queen's best friend, advisor and lover (Rachel Weisz).  It's a delectable film, full of cutting dialogue, the fate of the country dangling on royal whims and eye candy filmed with crazily wide-angled lenses.  It's literally often fish-eyed.  Oh, and the soundtrack's brilliant.
2019 Fox DVD top; 2019 Fox blu-ray bottom.
2019 Fox blu-ray left; 2019 Fox DVD right.
I'll start off simply by saying this release looks great.  The colors are bold and the HD detail is rich, which is especially good news in a film such as this, that was photographed to to relish an endless castle full of rich details and lovely colors.  The DVD naturally suffers from further compression with grain and sharp edges being washed away, fines lines becoming blocky and black levels being slightly greyer.

There can be a lot less to discuss in terms of PQ of a modern release.  Labels have learned a lot over the years, and films tend to be shot digitally, so there are far fewer issues of conversion taking place between the original footage and your TV.  In this case, The Favourite was actually shot on 35mm film; but they still delivered a final DCP, as in a single digital file to be sent to theaters, streaming sites and DVD labels.  So I was surprised to notice an anomaly here where Fox did seem to make a little mistake.  First of all, the DVD and blu-ray are presented in slightly different aspect ratios: 1.82 and 1.84 respectively.  And it's not a case of the mattes being slightly opened, like we've sometimes seen Vinegar Syndrome do.  Instead, the DVD is a bit vertically stretched.  It's not a huge amount, and fortunately it's just the DVD in the combo pack, a.k.a. the coaster disc, so it's no great tragedy.

For audio, we're given the rich options of English, French, Spanish and English descriptive audio in 5.1 (in lossless DTS-HD on the blu), with additional English, French and Spanish subs.
Extras are a little on the light side, but don't totally leave us hanging.  First and foremost is a 22-minute 'making of' featurette.  They talk to just about everybody in the cast and crew, and tackle all aspects of the production.  I just wish it was longer, to give some of those people more time to talk.  For instance, it would have been great if the historical advisor were given a couple minutes to break down all the key points where the film adheres to and parts from the actual history.  But otherwise it's a pretty nice look behind the scenes and gives some insight into the decisions the director made throughout.  We also get three minutes of brief deleted scenes, the trailer and a couple of bonus trailers.  This release also comes in an attractive slipcover.
So, ultimately, I was quite satisfied with this release.  They could've extended that featurette out to be more of a documentary, but what we got was still rather good, and the film looks great.  As is the film itself.  Honestly, I couldn't have been less interested in an Emma Stone movie about Queen Anne when I first heard about it, but boy am I glad I gave it a chance.  And it probably should've won Best Picture, at least given the other nominees.  But let's not think about that.

No comments:

Post a Comment