The Favourite a 2018 film by Yorgos Lanthimos is listed as a “black comedy”, but that doesn’t seem quite right. The film never goes out of its way to make the audience laugh. Nor does it seem concerned about ramping up the drama. It is just an odd movie about odd people during an odd time for the English Empire. The acting is wonderful and it is sumptuously shot, and that is enough for me, but others may be left cold.
The movie takes place in 1708 and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman)’s health is declining, so she is leaving the governing up to her top aid Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), Duchess of Marlborough. Things are going great for Sarah until her cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) shows up looking for a job because her father had lost the family fortune, and now Sarah will have some competition for who is the Queen’s Favourite.
The early eighteenth century is not really an important time for the Kingdom of Great Britain. It is mostly known for a pointless war and the rise of the two party system. In this case the Tories and The Wigs, but the scandal behind the throne of two women bucking for control of arguably the most powerful person in the world at the time is still a fun moment in British history, and The Favourite does its best to bring it to life. A lesser filmmaker would have made this unnecessarily dramatic and shown the fate of British Empire hanging in the balance, but ultimately it was about three women being very petty towards one another, and the odd and humorous clashes these women have. Lathinmos just lets it be odd and petty and unimportant.
Of course if a movie is mostly about three women, those women need to be able to carry a film, and Colman, Weisz, and Stone are more than up to the task. Colman so much so, that she won the Oscar for Best Actress, and she deserved it. The Favourite is mostly worth watching just for these three performances.
The other reason to watch The Favourite is that it is gorgeous. Every frame of this movie looks great. From the overly decorated palace walls to the British countryside. Not to mention all the panning and tracking shots that really do a great job capturing everything. Cinematographer Robbie Ryan was really working hard on this film, and that hard work paid off.
I thought The Favourite was great, but I hear others have had issues getting in to it. It is too odd and matter-of-fact for them, and I can see that. It definitely will not be for everyone, but if you like beautifully shot movies filled with talented actors doing petty things to one another, The Favourite is worth your time. A note for some, it does earn its ‘R’ rating for langue and nudity, so you have been warned. Emma this is not.