This film sure got a LOT of Oscar buzz this year. It was perhaps the most positively talked about film at Oscar time, in fact. But I heard soem mixed things – mostly good – and wanted to see it. The director, Yorgos Lanthimos, makes good films. I’ve seen Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and now The Favourite. And so far, no misses.
CFN’s own Chris Mancini did not like The Favourite at ALL. Chris and I have been friends for many years, and agree on most films. But not all, this one included. I rather enjoyed it, though I would still agree that perhaps it’s not quite Oscar nomination worthy. It runs 10-15 minutes longer than needed.
In early 18th century England, a frail Queen Anne occupies the throne and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah.
Well, that’s a very loose tag line. Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) is not in good health, and is not particularly of strong will. Lady Sarah practically runs the country, making decisions for the Queen. When Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives needing work, Sarah gives her a position as a scullery maid.
But Abigail eventually sees the life the Sarah has made for herself with the Queen and would like some of that, too. The Favourite becomes a battle of two women vying for the favor of Queen Anne, and may the best woman win.
And let the power plays begin.
This film gets the basic history correct, though the details are surely fudged for the narrative. And that’s fine, because this isn’t really a film about the history of war or politics at all. For general reference, Britain’s Queen Anne ruled from 1702 to 1714, adn was Queen when the Acts of Union were signed and England and Scotland were united to form Great Britain. She also ruled during the War of the Spanish Succession, and waged war with France in North America for control of the continent, in what would become known as Queen Anne’s War.
The performances are wonderful, as is the production design. I found myself laughing audibly on numerous occasions. There is plenty of sharp wit and funny situations here, some of which may be a little uncomfortable for some. Is there lots of filthy language? Yes. And that’s fine, and even relevant to what Yorgos Lanthimos wanted to do: make it more contemporary, and less stuffy. Sometimes these period pieces can feel a little full of themselves, and let’s face it, I’ve never been called a prude, so the language was fine with me.
It’s interesting seeing Olivia Coleman’s performance after winning the award for Best Actress in a leading role. At first, I was under the impression that her role was very secondary, but after seeing this, I feel like her presence was far more impactful. He Queen Anne is not written as a likable character, except maybe if you feel sorry for her. But there’s something regal beneath her slowly disintegrating façade, something that makes her worst moments — the binge cake-eating and the purple-faced screaming fits — even more jarring by contrast. i definitely feel her performance is more integral than Chris made it out to be.
This story, the first screenplay not originally written by Lanthimos and his writing partner, Efthymis Filippou, was written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. This is perhaps why The Favourite feels like the most accessible of Lanthimos’s films.
The Favourite does stretch a bit in places, and I found that it could have been 10 or 15 minutes shorter without any detriment to the film. However, the last scene in particular really makes an impact and leaves a lasting impression.
Go see this darkly funny film, and find out what all those bunnies on Melissa McCarthy’s dress at the Oscars were all about. I like The Favourite, even 4 kittenhands worth.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, saying this is an above average film.