The Favourite


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The Favourite
"The film is intelligent without being soft." | Photo: Courtesy of New York Film Festival

Internal politics. Regal. This seems to be the way it’s going. After the success of The Crown who’s next? Going back to the beginning of the 18th century, an ailing Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is top bitch in The Ken. Her friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), married to Marborough, who spends his time fighting the French, hangs around the court and looks after business. The arrangement has a more personal, deeper connection. Lesbian lust is hardly the subject of dinner party conversation but Lady S is quick to recognise the signs in the queen’s demeanour and glad to service it.

The director, Yorgos Lanthimos, is known for The Lobster and The Killing Of A Sacred Deer, both unexpected, original, and self-penned. The Favourite appears too costumey and too straight for his taste. The look is lovely, the photography immaculate, the acting seamless and the script (Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara) missing the director’s imprint which means on a conventional level it doesn’t shake your bones although is flawless as an historical recreation.

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The arrival of Abigail (Emma Stone) changes everything. She is a cousin of Lady S and is hired by the queen as a maid. Apparently she had been lost in a card game by her father before he died which left her classless and financially unstable. She knows how to behave and understands the subtle workings of posh tottery only too well. Very soon she is in contention with her cousin for the effecton of the queen.

These power games are usually played by men. The women are better at it because confrontation is avoided, flattery slips into the language with ease and pain is used as a form of pretence. Ultimately the film celebrates the art of manipulation. And then there is sex, of course. Too much going on? Or too little? Trapped inside, plotting in secret, the women understand the value of their endeavour and the price of failure. The film is intelligent without being soft. The cutting edge draws blood.

Reviewed on: 27 Dec 2018
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The Favourite packshot
Two of Queen Anne's acolytes jockey for position.
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Read more The Favourite reviews:

Anne-Katrin Titze *****

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Writer: Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara

Starring: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Olivia Colman, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss, Timothy Innes, John Locke, Isaura Barbé-Brown, Jenny Rainsford, James Smith, Wilson Radjou-Pujalte, Basil Eidenbenz, James Melville, Jack Veal

Year: 2018

Runtime: 120 minutes

Country: Ireland, United Kingdom, United States

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