Chew's Reviews - The Favourite

By Gary Chew | December 14, 2018 |  

Opens today in Sacramento | 

It's difficult for me to generate much interest or support when it comes to royalty. Whether it's about contemporary royals or ones of yore, the subject is a bore. Conversely, on taking in Greek film director Yorgos Lanthmos's oft-advertised and highly-touted monarchical picture THE FAVOURITE, I was sure enough brought to a sense of surprise.

A seemingly frail Queen Anne of Great Britain reigned in the early 18th century. It's written she was frightfully incompetent to carry such a responsibility. England and France were at war; the financial burden was causing great strain on the royal treasury.

You can easily believe such a thing watching this bawdy film since Her Majesty (Olivia Coleman) is not so much running the royal show. She's most often splayed out on her majestic bed while her bosom companion, the uppity Lady Sarah of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), maintains a firm grip on the reins of power ... as it were. The ailing Anne is always cranky and barking commands, while Sarah distracts the Queen and thus pulling only the strings that Lady Sarah wants plucked. (Speaking of strings, if you're a lover of The Baroque, the movie will certainly be music to your ears, although the dance scenes are on the stodgy side.)

On the other hand, all is not to be so harmonious after a distant cousin of Anne's named Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives ... out of hard times ... at the castle. Her family has “gone the way of the poor house” because father is a lousy gambler. Abigail applies for a servant's position ... and gets the gig.

Sarah and Abigail ultimately vie to be Anne's most “favoured.” And so obtains the film's title; albeit, I've formulated an after-the-fact working title for this well-produced, sometimes confusing, costume drama that's cleverly and comically written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. My suggestion is: “A Strange Yet Farcical Tale Of Those Royal Lesbians Of Arrogance.” I have to add: the ladies in this movie are marvelous! Many of the gentlemen actors nicely acquit themselves too, even though most of the fellows play their parts as total buffoons, being party to incredibly stupid tomfoolery. But it is after all, you see, a hearty and lusty film of feminism. Award nominations are nearly as plentiful as TV spots pitching THE FAVOURITE.

Lanthmos moves the film in short, somewhat disconnected bits and pieces, usually with bawdy punch lines or actions to finish off every scene. You'll be amazed by the stunning camera work on sets that take residence inside authentic royal interiors, with many shot through a fetching fish-eye lens. Vividly verdant, bucolic exteriors are at play as well.

If you think you want to see an earlier, even more over-the-edge feature by Lanthmos, take a gander at his dark and highly absurd film called THE LOBSTER (2015). There's no guarantee you won't be sorry if you do, but chances are simply zero you'll never forget it. It will remain in your brain. I just loved it. Lanthmos must appreciate Coleman and Weisz, as they were also cast in THE LOBSTER, along with Colin Farrell in the lead, who, to confuse you even more, is the lobster.

Lanthmos does have a wicked way of suddenly darkening this new work of his, too. That's especially made clear with the final scene. That's all you're getting from me on that score, however. But happily, I'll tell you this: THE FAVOURITE is unfavorable for the kiddies, as it is so awesomely ribald ... if you know what I mean.
 Copyright © 2018 by Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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