Director Yorgos Lanthimos surveys society and sees corroded souls, all of them sending out alternating waves of hurt and affront, like sonar that delivers wounds. He also, to the benefit of misanthropic cineastes everywhere, finds the resulting eternal struggle to be bleakly funny. And he knows how to run that humor through a piping bag, leaving elegant lines of vibrant frosting that’s only a little poisonous. The Favourite is based in historical fact, of royalty and attendants and palace intrigue. It avoids the staid fealty that often comes with the firmly established costume drama tropes by injecting the proceedings with the gruesome messiness of humanity. Lanthimos takes the interlaced duplicities of the story (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara are co-credited with the screenplay) and bends them mercilessly. Even the images distort, as if warped from the florid couplings taking place within the frame. It makes for a decadent, delectable banquet, and the actors enlisted by Lanthimos — notably Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone, and Nicholas Hoult — are properly gluttonous at platefuls of high-caloric emotion bestowed to them. The Favourite can seem like a film deviously at odds with its own cinematic genre, but I don’t that’s quite true. Instead, Lanthimos has made a film that is subversive in the way it consistently sets expectations only to shrewdly undermine them, a whirl of imbalance that mirrors the interplay of power-focused players engaged in a perpetual test their own fractious strategies.