In Cinemas 01/19
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz
"Objectively, the plot has its appeal as an historical reinterpretation for women protagonists, but The Favourite is a warped and unsettling construal of relations between these heroines which casts a crude light on the filmmakers’ subjectivity."
Queen Anne is crippled by gout and besieged by her courtiers over the question of France. Lady Sarah Marlborough is not prepared to let matters lie and champions another attack on the French. She believes her powerful influence over the Queen will realise her plan until her demoted cousin, Abigail arrives as a usurper in all senses.
Politics and power are not waged between the men in The Favourite as much as fought between the women. The struggle between Lady Marlborough, who is the Queen’s right hand and lover, and Abigail is ruthless. To be reinstated as an aristocrat, Abigail must win the Queen and defeat Sarah.
Objectively, the plot has its appeal as an historical reinterpretation for women protagonists, but The Favourite is a warped and unsettling construal of relations between these heroines which casts a crude light on the filmmakers’ subjectivity. Sarah and Abigail are pitted against each other in a brutal domestic war. The women are dressed in black and white patterns, perhaps to signify that everything is not black and white. The rivals scrap and punch each other. The men shove and punch the women too. They are called C***s and whores. Curiously, they brush off verbal and physical violence with astonishing ease in their endeavours to assert power via the Queen.
The Queen is the kindest of the players, portrayed as being used whilst she grieves over her miscarriages. But, she is a ludicrous, bloated figure who dotes on rabbits, gorges on mountains of cake until she vomits into a silver urn and seeks solace in sex from her competing rivals. These sexual attentions are at best false, which is hardly surprising given the Queen is covered in welts and sores.
Emma Stone and Rachel Weiss are perversely beguiling in their roles. Emma Stone’s inchoate, pale looks belie her character’s spiteful nature. Rachel Weiss’s, steely sweetness perfectly denotes her character’s fierce determination. Olivia Colman performs an oddly likeable Queen Anne, in all her complexities.
For those seeking beautiful period sets, The Favourite provides unlimited satisfaction. Ravishing backdrops and costumes aside, this is not a film that is always easy on the eye or mind. The Favourite is a comedic interpretation of relations between women who manipulate their distorted sexuality for power, readily suffer male violence, viciously abuse each other and ultimately fail in their quests.