While eschewing historical accuracy, The 18th century epic The Favourite plays like a political All About Eve, decorated with crowns and powdered wigs. Purporting to tell the story of Queen Anne (a deliriously grand Olivia Colman) and her dueling subjects, confidant Sarah (wryly malicious Rachel Weisz) and new servant Abigail (earnestly aggressive Emma Stone), the film veers into a seedy sexual triangle of one-upmanship. With lush backgrounds continually magnified through fish-eye lenses, the style of the film is only surpassed by the game performances of its three leads.
When Abigail arrives to a new station of scrubbing floors, she yearns for the more stable environment of her cousin Sarah, a political machinist who operates the kingdom when Anne’s illnesses leave her bedridden. As Abigail insinuates herself into Anne’s good graces, she pushes Sarah to the side and the gamesmanship takes off. The political machinations centered around the mostly off-screen war with the French, are mere pawns in the war between Abigail and Sarah.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos creates an expansive world amidst the massive art-filled rooms, dark passageways, and four-post beds of Queen Anne’s homestead. Each of the women is fascinating to watch, with Colman’s queen being a madcap romp of indulgence, sadness, pain, and whimsy; Weisz’ lady being cunning, seductive and witty; and Stone’s Abigail a devilish despondent fueled by ambition. At times, they’re each the greatest thing about the film and it’s hard to pick an actual favourite (snicker).
If you don’t go into the film expecting something too Merchant-Ivory, you should be consistently entertained by its meandering storyline, deeper themes, and central figures. I was.
My Grace – A