The Favourite

500 Days Of Film Reviews The Favourite Starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone

Early 18th century. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne and her close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. 

 

When a new servant Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing and Abigail sees a chance at a return to her aristocratic roots. As the politics of war become quite time consuming for Sarah, Abigail steps into the breach to fill in as the Queen’s companion. Their burgeoning friendship gives her a chance to fulfil her ambitions and she will not let woman, man, politics or rabbit stand in her way.

Is It Any Good?

A new film from director Yorgos Lanthimos is always a must-see. No matter the subject, his movies are always powerful, unforgettable cinematic experiences. From Dogtooth to The Killing Of A Sacred Deer via The Lobster, Lanthimos has the ability to convey the dark comedy and devastating tragedy inherent in any story.

 

Not that just any story will do… Lanthimos is also renowned for telling surreal and often bewildering tales. While always gripping, his films are never easy to watch - he asks much of his audience and repays them with consistently thought-provoking fare.  

 

The Favourite is, perhaps, his most accessible film to date. The narrative is eccentric and multi-layered but nonetheless the movie’s key chapters (albeit segmented by bizarre title cards) are easy to follow. 

 

Set in the court of Queen Anne, The Favourite explores the absurd and often disgusting excesses of the privileged and the powerful. Amid sumptuous riches (the film’s costume and production design are both wonderful), the fate of the country is managed by a braying bunch of bewigged fools - happiest when racing ducks or throwing fruit at naked men.

 

It is easy to laugh at the ridiculousness of these scenes. However, the comedy (punctuated by the film’s insistent and unsettling score) also leaves a sour taste. A question lingers - the wigs may have gone but has much really changed in the world of power and politics? 

 

 

Behind the scenes the real power lies with two women who have each found favour with Queen Anne. Thrilling political machinations ensue as Lady Sarah and Abigail manipulate Anne to their own ends and go to increasingly chilling lengths to maintain their position as the Queen’s favourite companion.

 

Thanks to the pitch perfect (and impressively physical) performances from Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone, there is much fun to be had watching Anne's outbursts and Sarah and Abigail’s attempts to outmanoeuvre one another. 

 

However, beneath this entertaining surface lies a story of desperation, loneliness and paranoia. The women crave love, power and stability in a world that offers them only emptiness and fear.

 

While all three performances are absolutely superb, Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Queen Anne’s grief and physical pain has stayed with me the most - particularly one close-up of her face, which transforms from pleasantly amused to utterly devastated before our eyes. Awards talk is entirely justified in this moment alone.

 

Random Observations

Have you seen The Favourite? 

 

If you have, what did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments section below or via Twitter. You can find me @500DaysOfFilm.

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