Wry wit meets smart slapstick meets historical highnesses in the latest directorial masterpiece by Yorgos Lanthimos. This darkly comedic period piece depicts Britain’s Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) and the complicated relationship she shares with trusted advisor (and sometimes lover) Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz).
It’s 1708 and Anne’s physical health is rapidly declining. She is almost completely reliant on Sarah, who undeniably takes advantage of her almost surrogate queen position. All is well in Sarah’s life until her fresh-faced cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) arrives at the palace. In search of a better life after her wealthy father lost her in a questionable bet, Abigail accepts employment as a servant in the kitchens. Little does Sarah know the havoc the new arrival will cause. In the midst of the country’s battle with France, Sarah and Abigail are soon engaged in a war of their own, fighting furiously for Anne’s affections. What ensues is raucously entertaining and brilliant to boot.
Coleman, Weisz, and Stone are a fierce ensemble. Anne is, on the surface, an almost grotesque caricature, however Coleman’s portrayal is so raw and sensitive in nature that what we come to see is a broken woman, the sufferer of seventeen lost children, a leader lost a time of great need for her country. Stone and Weisz are equally excellent in their portrayals of these very smart, incredibly manipulative characters.
Three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell’s costuming is a gorgeous hybrid of elite period attire and “punk rock” fashion and the carefully constructed soundtrack combines historical pieces from Purcell and Handel Vivaldi with contemporary work by composer Anna Meredith and an original harpsichord version of Elton John’s Skyline Pigeon.
When it comes to historical accuracy, supposedly there was indeed a rivalry for Anne’s affections and both Sarah and Abigail were legitimate figures in the royal court. However, many of the intricacies of the story are plucked from speculation and rumour. Perhaps it is this that makes The Favourite such good fun.
Despite hearts rarely in the right place and motives questionable, these are the kind of kick-ass women we need more of on our screens. This female fuelled feature is exactly what summer ordered.