Film review: The Favourite
Royal cousins fight for an ailing Queen Anne’s favour, and the political power and influence that it entails, in 18th century England.
Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is a maudlin, mercurial, depressed and increasingly ailing monarch who is barely able to leave her bed. She’s self-absorbed and devastated by how her life has turned out thanks to the useless advice of her male advisors. Anne finds comfort only in her 17 pet rabbits (one for each of her dead children) and Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) – her childhood friend, closest confidant, advisor and lover.
Lady Sarah effectively rules England by proxy, living a comfortable life as the Queen’s favourite and manipulating key players, including Anne, to serve her own agenda.
Sarah’s life at the top is thrown in to turmoil when her cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at court and schemes to rise up the palace food chain, drawing the attention of key male courtiers and the affections of Queen Anne. Sarah suddenly finds herself fighting for her position as the favourite.
Despite five Golden Globe nominations, three SAG nominations and BAFTAs buzz, there’s little to like about the plot.
Comedy comes in the form of shrill yelling as substitute for genuine emotion and the liberal use of extreme profanity solely for shock value (which evidently worked for some, judging by the audible gasps from a woman seated behind me in the cinema each time a certain curse word was uttered).
The humour is often slapstick and childish, taking away from what have been a powerful storyline flipping the script on the trope of intelligent and conniving men in power and women as eye candy.
The only redeeming features of the film are the excellent cinematography and sublime costuming and set design.
Cinematographer Robbie Ryan shifts seamlessly from conventional framing to off-kilter perspectives with a liberal use of disorienting wide angles and fisheye lens.
The result is a visual feast highlighting the luxuriously-appointed sets complete with opulent gold fabrics, rich wood panelling and ornate ceilings.
Oscar-winning costume designer Sandy Powell dressed the three leading ladies solely in black and white, which provides a lovely contrast to the dark candle-lit backdrops of the Queen’s castle.
Gender roles are blurred, with women wearing minimal makeup while the constantly bickering male politicians are heavily rouged dandies in waist-length wigs and identical frockcoats.
My overall recommendation is to save your money and wait until the film is released on DVD.
Final verdict: 1.5/5
Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult
If you liked this, try:
Barry Lyndon, The Lobster
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