Prestige-y period pieces don’t come much stranger or funnier than “The Favourite,” a gleefully poisonous comedy about two women jockeying for power in the Queen’s court.

It comes from Yorgos Lanthimos, the Greek filmmaker behind such weird-ass movies as “The Lobster” and “Dogtooth.” That such a director as Lanthimos has an awards-season darling that’s likely to score half a dozen Oscar nominations next year is, in itself, hilarious. Because if “The Favourite” has the lavish production values and grade-A cast of your ordinary British costume drama, it is anything but the tasteful pageantry the genre usually churns out. (For something a lot more traditional, “Mary Queen of Scots” opens in Omaha next week, too.)

“The Favourite” is based on a true story of power plays, court intrigue and duck races in 18th-century England.

With Britain at war with the French, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne. A weak, erratic and sickly ruler, Anne cedes most of her authority to Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), her childhood friend, adviser, confidant and, behind closed doors, lover.

Sarah is a cunningly effective shadow-ruler, using her favor with the queen to push her politics through Parliament. She is effectively the most powerful person in Great Britain. Then her cousin comes to town and ruins everything.

Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) is a fallen woman. Her father gambled away their fortune and good name and settled a debt by handing over his daughter to an old German man. Finally free of her captor, Abigail heads to court and asks Sarah for a job.

She starts in the kitchens, but her sweet demeanor and experience with the nobility quickly earn her favor with Sarah and, eventually, Anne.

Before long, Anne has become quite taken with Abigail, which makes Sarah jealous. What begins as jabs and cutting remarks soon escalates to actual violence, with each woman aiming to be Anne’s favourite at any cost.

All of this is acerbically, disturbingly funny, with hints of the grotesque hovering ’round the fringes.

Anne’s court is a deeply silly place. Dukes and earls throw oranges at naked men and hold duck races. (Horatio, the city’s fastest duck, deserved above-the-title billing.)

The ever-witty script — which I imagine has an Oscar trophy in its future — comes from Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, making the film a lot less weird and much more accessible than Lanthimos’ usual output. Gone are the alien, affectless speaking patterns of something like “The Lobster” or “Killing of a Sacred Deer.”

But “The Favourite” is still pretty weird.

Though the costumes and makeup and production design are superb (and period-accurate), Lanthimos tells the story in an almost experimental way that further separates the film from its British-costume-drama trappings.

“The Favourite” is largely shot in interiors (England’s Hatfield House and Hampton Court Palace). And Lanthimos and his cinematographer Robbie Ryan — who also shot “American Honey,” partially filmed in Bennington, Nebraska — make sure we see every inch of the palace, the restless, roving camera following the three women about their scheming.

The films further employs such techniques as whip-pans, fish-eye lenses, symmetrical framing and natural lighting. The style is drawing (apt) comparisons to Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon,” but the overall effect is all its own.

But as thrillingly off as the filmmaking is, it never overshadows the story at hand nor upstages the three marvelous women at its center.

Though “The Favourite” has a few delightful male performances — Nicholas Hoult as a Tory gadfly, Joe Alwyn as Abigail’s suitor and, of course, the aforementioned Horatio the duck — this is decidedly a movie about three women caught in a sexually charged power struggle, played by three actresses all doing some of the best work of their careers.

As Sarah, Weisz is sharp and domineering, but she’s got her softer side, too, especially when it comes to the queen.

As Abigail, Stone uses her inherently likable persona against us. She’s the character who changes the most over the course of the film, going from an innocent victim to a wily survivor and, finally, to someone capable of great cruelty.

But Colman, as Anne, is deservedly getting most of the attention for her high-wire performance. Plagued with gout, depression, anxiety and a compulsive eating disorder, Anne could have been a grotesque in lesser hands. But Colman threads the needle between Anne’s absurdity and humanity, crafting a deeply complex character who is deserving of our sympathies even when she’s at her worst.

Watching these three women play off each other is one of the supreme cinematic pleasures of 2018.

Shooting the actresses with such a wide lens, Lanthimos gives the effect that we’re watching this caustic comedy unfold in a fish bowl, or some other kind of captivity. And as odd as that looks, it’s perfectly in tune with the themes of the film.

Because while Sarah and Abigail might believe they’re rising through the ranks of this insular milieu, they are in fact just as effectively digging deeper into a prison of their own making — one of endless grief, servitude and degradation.

It’s messed up, but it’s also a lot funnier than it sounds.

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