Movie Review: 'The Favourite'

John Thomas
Olivia Coleman in The Favourite

The often quoted expression you reap what you sow tends to be true, especially if one is sowing in the early 18th century garden of Queen Anne of England. Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) is feeble, indecisive, frequently confused, occasionally cantankerous, petulant and falls down a lot. Coming to her aid in both business and personal matters is her friend and confidant, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Lady Sarah is actually much more involved with the Queen than is observed by members of the court.

The only things closer to Queen Anne than Lady Sarah is the Queen’s plethora of rabbits on whom she dotes. The animals are in cages, Lady Sarah is not.

England is at war with France. The citizens of the country and members of Parliament all look to the Queen for advice and guidance to resolve the conflict. Making things even worse for her is that both money and morale are at an all-time low. She finds temporary relief in taking naps, eating cakes, drinking hot chocolate and Lady Sarah. More often than not, Lady Sarah makes decisions and speaks for the Queen.

The only problem that can’t be easily solved is the painful skin disorder covering the Queen’s legs, which greatly limits her mobility.

Literally tossed from a carriage into a mud puddle in front of the palace is Abigail (Emma Stone), cousin to Lady Sarah. She, once a fine lady herself, has fallen on hard times with the loss of her father and his fortune and has now come to her cousin seeking assistance. Abigail is given a job in the scullery and a bed on the floor with other humble palace servants. Things are fine for the time being.

After a brief encounter with the Queen (Abigail rubs herbs on the Queen’s legs), she begins to see the potential for improving her situation – perhaps she could replace her cousin as Queen Anne’s favourite. Everyone at court is already scheming, plotting and conspiring for one reason or another, why not her?

Very slowly Abigail’s clothes improve in quality and number, her responsibilities to the Queen increase and her position at court betters. Eventually Lady Sarah discovers what her cousin is up to, only to find it’s too late to rectify the situation – Queen Anne is utterly smitten with her new “favourite.” Part of the mutual attraction of the two women is their shared love of rabbits, who are by now running carefree in the Queen’s chamber – as is Abigail.

Plots continue unabated in court, the war with France is not over, the population is somewhat appeased, Lady Sarah is distant and Abigail is finally fulfilling her dreams of wealth and power. Seeing all these schemes and plans unfolding on the screen, one is reminded of two old saws. “You’ve made your bed...” and most appropriately to The Favourite, “Be careful of what you wish for because your wish can be your worst nightmare.”

The Favourite is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos with credits for “The Lobster” and “The Killing of the Sacred Deer.” Running 119 minutes, this is a “should see” movie.


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