Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos from a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, THE FAVOURITE is firming up to be a favourite of this film going year.
Reminiscent and redolent of Stanley Kubrick and Peter Greenaway, Lanthimos shooting style is bold and audacious in its composition, palette and performance, a symbiotic choreography of camera and character that is breathtaking in its scope and synergy.
To be blunt, THE FAVOURITE is about the cunt struck court of Queen Anne, possibly England’s least known ruler, not least of all because she left no heirs to speak of her, despite an extraordinary 17 pregnancies.
This sequence of still births, miscarriages and infant mortality took a significant and profound psychological and physical toll, nevertheless, she ascended to the throne at the turn of the 18th Century, essentially because no other Protestant successors to the Stuart royal line were available.
THE FAVOURITE is set several years after her final pregnancy, and a year or two after being widowed. Perhaps. Fact and date checks don’t amount to a hill duck poo and bunny pellets. She is cantankerously and robustly frail, corpulent and non ambulatory. England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. And she keeps a brood of bunnies each named for a deceased child.
Her close friend Lady Sarah Churchill, longtime principal Lady of the Bedchamber, governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health, mercurial temper and Regina Vagina.
Into this cosy arrangement, a new servant, Abigail Masham arrives, endears herself to Sarah who takes Abigail under her wing. Abigail soon inveigles herself into the royal bedchamber unleashing a seething mass of scheming, manipulation and ulcerating usurpation.
Hell hath no fury as these three women bitch, connive, concoct and one up themselves, favouring all manner of malice and aforethought, mirroring the shocking new era of acrimonious national division, with Whigs and Tories taking sides as partisans and bitterly battling each other for influence as a young two-party political system lay its tangled and treacherous roots.
THE FAVOURITE fields three pedigree performances from three pedigreed performers.
Olivia Colman is magnificent as the moribund Anne, a towering infirmity of combustible, corpulent cripple toppling into tantrum and playing favourites in fickle fashion. Her childlessness seems to have created a childishness, easily chiding, in need of constant cajoling, easily coerced into fecklessness.
Rachel Weisz is marvellous as Sarah Churchill, cunning linguist to the Queen, velvet fist in an iron glove, source of sovereign comfort and joy, the woman behind the throne.
Emma Stone is sublime as Abigail Masham, so subtle in her scheme to make the Queen keen for her, restore her aristocratic station and secure her future. She flirts and flatters with fallacious facility and felicity. And very funny.
The script by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara is pungent, cogent, profane and hysterically, hilariously funny.
The costumes by triple Academy Award winning costume designer, Sandy Powell are a benchmark of craft and artistry.
Destined to become a favourite now and in the future, THE FAVOURITE deserves both audience applause and award accolades.