The Favourite was another of my top picks at The Middleburg Film Festival. England’s Queen Anne was such a sad queen. But this period dramedy of the fight to be her favorite is wickedly funny and full of Oscar-worthy performances, particularly Olivia Colman (The Lobster, Broadchurch) who plays the gout-ridden, isolated monarch with little interest in doing the job she was born to. Fortunately, she has Lady Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) to take care of her and all those pesky decisions she’s supposed to make. But when Lady Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at court and finagles her way into the Queen’s good graces, the gloves come off and it’s every woman for herself. And it’s savage and hilarious! The dialogue alone in this film makes it worth seeing, but the direction and attention to detail make it sing.
It’s the beginning of the 18th century and England is at war with France, still. But the Queen doesn’t really know or care very much about that. Her dear Lady Sarah is happy to care of those duties for her, as well as being the Queen’s intimate partner. In fact, Lady Sarah revels in wielding such great power. But then her ne’er-do-well cousin shows up out of the nowhere and out of the kindness of her heart, she gives her a job scrubbing floors. But sweet, pretty little cousin Abigail has other plans and soon finds a way to make herself known to the Queen, setting up a rivalry that plays out with ever rising stakes. Think All About Eve, only funny and set in a royal palace with roaming pet rabbits and duck racing.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos’s previous films (The Killing of the Sacred Deer, The Lobster) have been, shall we say, an acquired taste. But with The Favourite, he moves assuredly into the mainstream. The film is a visual spectacle with lavish sets and absurd settings. And Olivia Colman’s multi-layered performance will probably get her a well deserved Oscar nod. Weisz and Stone could, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, from beginning to end. And I highly recommend it to wide audiences looking for a good laugh wrapped in a bit of a history lesson. (A lot of it, odd as it seems, is true.)
[Mainstream Chick’s take: I suppose you can say – as Arty Chick does – that Lanthimos moves into the mainstream with The Favourite – but only as compared to The Killing of the Sacred Deer and The Lobster, neither of which served as my particular cup of tea. Artier souls who embraced those odder films and enjoy period dramas will surely appreciate The Favourite more than I did. The performances are excellent, and there’s plenty of witty banter that had me chuckling aloud here and there, much like the period dramedy Love & Friendship did in 2016. But when it comes to awards picks for 2018, The Favourite is not among my favourites. Except perhaps for Nicholas Hoult in the best supporting actor category. The women, while all strong in their roles, may cancel each other out. – hb]