The Favourite

The Favourite

A year in film tends to follow the same pattern, 2019 will I expect be no different. There’s a few months to wait for the big blockbusters (Avengers End Game, Godzilla) and with the festive offerings (Mary Poppins Returns, Bumblebee) still doing well but over the peak of their box office takings. January’s new releases usually have one thing in common, nominees.

The Favourite proves this rule with Olivia Coleman having just won best actress at the Golden Globes for her performance as Queen Mary.

After a small debate about what to see, off the Parmenter’s went for a Sunday afternoontrip to the cinema to find out if this film really was as bizarre as the trailer suggested.

Set in the court of Queen Anne in the early 18th Century the film centres around the relationships and power struggles of three central characters, all women, all BAFTA nominees.

Early on we’re introduced to Queen Anne (Olivia Coleman) and Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). Sarah being the Queen’s closest and most trusted friend, for now anyway.

It’s very apparent the Queen is in poor health and has very little idea of what is really going on, maybe even a hint of mental illness. Sarah has control of the royal household as well as matters of state. England is at war with France and Lady Sarah easily uses her influence with the Queen to ensure her husband Duke of Marlborough and the Prime Minister get the sign off they need to send more troops to France at a huge financial cost to the country.

We then meet Abigail (Emma Stone) travelling to court in a over crowded carriage. Abigail is down on her luck, once a Lady herself but now penniless and without standing after her father gambled her away in a card game to a man we never meet and can only assume she somehow managed to escape. She arrives hoping her cousin Lady Sarah will take pity and offer her a place alongside her or at the very least employment.

Sarah puts Abigail to work in the kitchen where the rest of the staff don’t take to kindly to the new arrival and things still remain a challenge for her. However, it’s not long before Abigail ceases an opportunity to get close to the Queen using her knowledge of herbs to create a lotion to soothe Queen Anne’s open sores (look away if you’re in any way squeamish). This doesn’t go down to well with Sarah who feels Abigail has overstepped the mark and sends her off for a beating, the Queen however mentioned this is the only treatment that has made any difference and therefore Abigail is swiftly promoted to Lady Sarah’s personal maid.

Sarah and Abigail then start to get to know one another and we find they’re are very similar in their goal. To gain the affection of the Queen and the luxuries and status this would bestow.

Sarah and the Queen have been friends since childhood and we soon learn along with Abigail they mean a lot more to each other. Abigail uses this as her opportunity to work her way into the Queen’s affections both emotionally and physically. With Abigail soon becoming the new favourite.

Sarah of course does not take this lying down and the remainder of the film becomes a tail of devious tactics between the two and some of the most interesting and tense scenes of the film.

The acting is where the strength of this film truly lies with the three women giving amazing performances.  Would have loved more of the three of them together playful dialogue and venomous snipes. In my opinion they are all as good as each other and would find it hard to define who would deserve best actress over best supporting actress. For once it’s the men who become supporting characters a little surplus to requirements (sorry guys) Nicholas Hoult stands out and actually provides a lot of the film’s humour.

The film is a bit bizarre but I imagine it’s only because the 18th century was a bit bizarre. A time where if you had the money you to could enjoy lobster racing, duck racing, 17 pet rabbits living in your bedroom and throwing rotten tomatoes at naked fat men.

The camera work is interesting, I’m not usually one to notice such things but even I appreciate the fisheye lense used to give a voyeuristic feel but overall it was nothing new a very standard costume drama feel about it.

The ending is strange and the story comes to an abrupt conclusion, with the last 10-15 minutes being almost rushed compared to the slow pace of the rest of the film.

Was it the best film I’ll see this year I doubt it. I did leave slightly disappointed and just a little bit bewildered. But for acting alone it deserves 3 stars and maybe an award or two.

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