TThe Favourite, a review
Why watch The Favourite?
To begin with, the film has managed to gather a good number of impressive awards, not least the Critics Choice award for Best Acting Ensemble. This acting ensemble is entirely made up of three fabulous, talented, beautiful women; Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. Directed by genious Yorgos Lanthimos, also responsible for Dogtooth, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer, this magnificent film, shows the three lead women involved in lesbian affairs.
The story is about Queen Anne of England, one of the lesser-known queens who ruled in the 18th century. having lost 17 children in miscarriages, stillbirths and infant illness, Queen Anne ( played beautifully by Colman) is overweight, depressed, in agony with pain over her gout-ridden leg and has very low confidence in her image and her ability to run the country. She is hesitant to lead the country into another war with France and to impose the consequential taxes on the poor in order to fund the war. However, she relies on the advice of her long-time friend and lover Lady Sarah, played by Weisz. Lady Sarah, who is married to the Duke of Marlborough -leader of the troops against France, is strongly in favour of the war, led by her love for England.
In comes Abigail, an ex-aristocrat played by Emma Stone, who accepts a position as a servant while plotting ways to restore her lost title and money. With her appearance in court, a power struggle begins between the two women for Queen’s attention.
The two rivals could not be more different. Sarah is determined, fearless, dominant and cold, but loves the Queen and looks after her in both her political life role and in her private life. She rubs the Queen’s legs when she is in pain and always tells her the truth, even when that means telling her that she looks ridiculous. “I will not lie. That is love,” she says. On the other hand, Abigail is charming and tactile and complements the Queen constantly, even with blatant lies. And the Queen, partly to fill her loneliness and partly trying to make Sarah jealous in order to gain more of her attention and tenderness, becomes lovers with Abigail. “I like it when she puts her tongue inside me”, she tells Sarah. The ensuing conflict is brutal and vicious. Can there be winners and losers in such power struggles?Who will the Queen chose? The one who really loves her, even though her love can be tough sometimes, or the one who complements her and offer her tenderness, but eventually only uses her? How will these women react when they feel hurt and betrayed? What will become of them if they lose the one who truly loves them from their lives?
Amidst all this, the Queen’s body becomes the centre of the film. She is in pain. “This fucking leg. It’s like a monster attacking me. Cut it off for me, will you?” she yells in desperation. She eats compulsively. In a scene we see her once again eating cake, stops for a moment to puke it up and then continues eating. She expresses her desires, her lusts, unapologetically. “Fuck me,” she tells Sarah. “Rub my leg,” code for fuck me, she tells Abigail.
The filming is brilliant, with the use of wide-angle and fish-eye lenses to create an absurd atmosphere, where the tantrums and desperation of Queen Anne are exemplified and produce a doubt whether what we are looking at is really happening in the plot or is part of horrible nightmare of Queen Anne. The absurdity is accentuated with contemporary language used by the actors, the fabrics, the music, the choreography at the ball. The only indication of a period drama is the costumes and the historical references. But of course, absurdity is something we are used to with Lanthimos.
And if none of the above has convinced you to watch the film, then just watch it to see Rachel Weisz in her shooting costume, which is a masterpiece by itself.