This quirky period comedy-drama tells the story of competition for the title of a royal favourite in the court. If The Other Boleyn Girl had a lovechild with The Lobster, The Favourite would be that child.
The Favourite Plot
In 1708, Britain is at war with France, and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is on the throne. In frail health, Anne shows little interest in governing, instead preferring eccentric activities such as racing ducks and playing with her rabbits, which represent the 17 children she has lost over the years. Her confidante, adviser and secret lover Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough, effectively rules the country through her influence on the Queen.
But all suddenly changes for Sarah when Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), Sarah’s impoverished younger cousin, arrives at Court in search of employment. Abigail is at first forced to do menial work as a scullery maid in the palace, but after seeing the Queen’s condition, she sees an opportunity to ingratiate herself with Sarah and, eventually, Queen Anne herself. While Sarah is focused on the war effort, Abigail takes advantage of her preoccupation to kindle a friendship with Anne, which soon becomes a sexual relationship.
The rivalry of cousins ends with a blow to Marlborough reputation – all thanks to Abigail’s cunning manipulations. However, soon after Abigail’s victory, her ego and gluttony for luxury starts to inflate the same way Sarah’s had. The abrupt ending of the film offers to viewers no relief or closure. It rather appears that heartbroken Anne has ‘painted herself in a corner’ by banishing and prosecuting Duke and Duchess of Marlborough and opening her heart to the calculating and manipulative Abigail.
The Favourite: Ikon London Magazine Verdict
Based on the true story, The Favourite is visually arresting with perfect set design and makeup. Olivia Colman was praised for her impeccable performance. She is masterful in portraying mourning, dysfunctional and emotionally damaged Anne. Rachel Weisz has the vigour, ambition, and masculinity that, according to the historians, Sarah Churchill displayed.
Somewhat unconvincing, however, was Emma Stone in her portrayal of an impoverished ‘retiring’ yet calculating lady. Lanthimos agreed to allow Stone to audition only after she worked with a dialect coach for at least one month. And while her English accent was believable, it was more contemporary English. She came short of showing the depth of character and calm and calculating nature of Abigail who in real life managed to turn the court status quo around and land herself a title of the Keeper of the Privy Purse (first promised to Sarah’s children).
Expect strong language and sexual acts from early scenes.