You don’t often you see a queen quite like this.
Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Queen Anne, the 18th century head of state who suffered from ill health and a childlike bad temper makes The Favourite a delicious film to experience. And watching Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah, and Emma Stone as new servant Abigail, battle for her attention and favour only adds to this satisfying experience.
But as funny as it can be, it’s also, at times, bizarre, and sad.
Enduring seventeen pregnancies that never resulted in a child, and the death of her husband, Queen Anne is a lonely figure whose aggressive mood swings impact the functioning of her government, and her country’s safety as England fights France in the war.
Yet the immediate cause of her outbursts is, we discover, her close relationship with Weisz’s Lady Sarah, who governs on Anne’s behalf when she’s not feeling up to it, which is quite often. When Sarah neglects to pay her enough attention, the queen immediately acts out, with the Prime Minister and opposition leader often bearing the brunt of the consequences.
But this all changes after Emma Stone’s Abigail, who Sarah initially takes a shine to, works her way up to serving the queen, and starts paying Anne the attention she sometimes doesn’t get from the Lady.
Thus the competition begins. But it quickly grows dark. And while it’s delicious watching Stone and Weisz’s characters plot and playout their plans, Colman’s Queen Anne grows more sympathetic, yet more cruel character as she feels the force of the unhealthy culture she’s fostered throughout her castle.
Not to be overlooked are Nicholas Hoult and James Smith as opposition leader and Prime Minister, respectively. As they squabble over approaches to the war, they both share a muted frustration with the queen as she struggles to understand what they’re talking about and make decisions about which approach to go with.
Hoult, in particular, is fantastic as the pompous Robert Harley. From pushing Stone’s character into a ditch, to sneaking up on her from behind leading her to drop an entire tray of glassware, he gives a well-received over the top performance.
The costumes and makeup, dimly lit castle and the constant presence of mud help the film successfully portray what the era would’ve looked and indeed smelt like. And the presence of a fish eye lense whenever one of the girls’ plots goes awry is well-used.
Overall it’s a cheeky film with incredibly sad undertones. It’s an appropriately cynical reflection on the lengths women felt they had to go to to uphold their place in English society.
Watching these three fantastic actresses play off each other for an hour or two is as joyous as it sounds. But brace for the bizarre.