The Favourite ~ A Capsule Movie Review

The Favourite ~ A Capsule Movie Review by Allen Kopp

It’s the early 1700s. Queen Anne sits on the throne of England. She has had seventeen children, all of whom died. (“Some were born in blood, some never breathed, and others were with me only for a short time.”) She has seventeen rabbits that she keeps in the royal bedchamber which serve as surrogate children. (“They are my babies.”) She is child-like, petty, temperamental, mentally unstable, sick, gout-ridden, obese, and in every way unfit to run affairs of state. England is, of course, engaged in endless, expensive warfare with France. (God help England!)

Queen Anne (played by an actress named Olivia Colman) has a “favourite,” a woman who goes by the name of Sarah (the ever-frightening Rachel Weisz). Sarah is what is known as a forceful woman. She has Queen Anne firmly in hand. She treats her at times like a child and she will slap her in the face if she feels like it (when they are alone, of course). Sarah tells the queen what to say, what to do, how to dress, and in general manages her life behind closed doors. She is the power behind the throne. And, oh, yes, they are lesbian lovers. We can’t leave that out.

There’s a new bitch in town, though. Her name is Abigail (Emma Stone). She is a wily manipulator. She has recently lost her “status” in life (her father lost her in a card game), and she longs to be a “lady” again. When she comes into the household as a lowly maid, she sizes up the relationship between Queen Anne and Sarah and decides that the situation is rife with possibilities for her. She eventually discovers the sexual nature of the association between Queen Anne and Sarah and learns the way to the queen’s heart.

I didn’t care which of the two dragons (Abigail or Sarah) prevails with the queen. They are equally unlikeable. When they resort to poisoning, I don’t really care which one gets up off the floor. Queen Anne is the most interesting and compelling character, the one character with whom our sympathies lie. We pity her and also find her repulsive.  The often-tragic, often-ugly lives of English kings and queens make for fascinating viewing.

The real fun of The Favourite is the way it looks and sounds. It is a wig movie of the highest order and we don’t get many of those. (The voluminous curly wigs are worn by the men; in the battle of the hair, the women recede into the background.) The early eighteenth century sets look absolutely authentic and believable. The music of the period (Bach, Handel, Vivaldi) is loud and there’s lots of it. There’s plenty here to like, especially if you are a fan of historical costume drama and don’t really care for most of the youth-oriented crap at the multiplex.

Copyright © 2018 by Allen Kopp