Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Emma Stone (BATTLE OF THE SEXES , LA LA LAND , IRRATIONAL MAN , ZOMBIELAND , and upcoming films ZOMBIELAND 2  and THE CROODS 2 ), Rachel Weisz (DISOBEDIENCE , MY COUSIN RACHEL , and LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS ), Olivia Colman (ORIENT EXPRESS , THE LOBSTER , and the upcoming THEM THAT FOLLOW ), Nicholas Hoult (REBEL IN THE RYE , X-Men FIRST CLASS , FUTURE PAST , and APOCALYPSE , MAD MAX: FURY ROAD , and upcoming films X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX  and THE BANKER ), and Joe Alwyn (BOY ERASED , SENSE OF ENDING , BILLY LYNN , and upcoming films MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS  and HARRIET ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Yorgos Lanthimos, known for THE LOBSTER. Co-writing the screenplay are Deborah Davis (writing debut; congrats, miss) and Tony McNamara (stuff I’ve either never seen or heard of). The cinematographer is Robbie Ryan, known for AMERICAN HONEY (2016). Finally, the editor is Yorgos Mavropsaridis, known for THE LOBSTER, and the upcoming SUICIDE TOURIST (2019).
Already saw the film, so let’s get to it.
This is my honest opinion of: THE FAVOURITE
Set in England, circa the early 18th century. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is in the middle of a war with France and is constantly faced with pressure from her court on approaches to take to dealing with them. Quietly helping her with her decision-making is her dearest friend, Lady Sarah Churchill of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). However, Sarah’s position as the favorite in Anne’s eyes is threatened when Sarah’s cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) becomes employed by the Queen as a servant. Soon, Anne becomes sick and despite the best efforts of doctors who couldn’t help her, Abigail concocts her own medicine and soothes the ailing queen. What starts off as simple friendship eventually becomes stronger, and soon a struggle for Anne’s favoritism begins with Abigail and Sarah.
Holy shit, this movie was awesome. It’s so fucked up in all the right ways. On paper, this must have been the easiest movie to pitch. “Do you want to see a movie about lies, betrayal, women, and sex? Then do I have a movie for you!” And this movie has all of that. It’s just great.
Oh boy, where do I even start? Well for one thing, the movie is legitimately funny. One of the first great visuals is Abigail’s all scrunched up in a tiny carriage with a bunch of strangers, I assume. While everyone else seems perfectly content like it’s another Tuesday afternoon, Abigail is clearly uncomfortable. Of course, it probably doesn’t help that the man sitting across from her is jerking off to her. What else kills me is her reaction. She looks at him like he’s road-kill, and not repulsive. Her expression is closer to, “Ugh, again?” The way that women treat rape in this movie is so sick and yet disturbingly hilarious. On Abigail’s first day, she is accused of… something I forget, but is about to get lashings for it from 1st Earl Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult). He drags her into the kitchen and starts ripping her clothes off, but the head of the kitchen staff is all like, “Hey, if you’re going to do that, do that in the barn, not my kitchen!” Let that sink in. In another scene, Abigail has earned some favor from Anne and is laying in her own bed alone. In comes the “nice” guy 1st Baron Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn), who has become almost obsessed with Abigail. He sneaks into her bedchamber, wearing a ridiculously over-the-top outfit. Then she asks, “Are you here to seduce me, or rape me?” Samuel responds with a cool, “I’m a gentleman.” Then Abigail with, “Rape it is then.” Then just slumps her arms to her sides, keeping her legs open. None of this is some kind of sarcasm, Abigail really thinks that this is going to happen. I feel like I’m going to Hell for laughing as hard as I did. There’s a lot of scenes like this with that “what the fuck” reaction from the audience and it’s glorious.
What’s so great about this movie is how wonderfully written these characters are. I went into it a lot about Abigail, a woman who almost normalizes rape, as how chill she is with it. She clearly has a history with perverted and undeserving men, yet has developed this cheerily sarcastic personality. I mean, her father literally gambled her in a card game! How fucked up is that?! Yet, she seems to know her role in the order of things, given the time period, but is smart and brave enough to step beyond her station to help the Queen with her health problems. She does seem rather gracious toward both Anne and Sarah at first, despite Sarah’s dismissive and passive-aggressive attitude toward her. Of course, her personality shifts greatly as the story progresses and the favoritism goes to her head. But that never stops her from learning to become even more cunning, conniving, and ruthless, isn’t afraid to use her sexual appeal to her advantage, all to maintain her status with the Queen. Sarah is almost the exact same way, but whereas Abigail is more of a deceptive scalpel, Sarah is a hammer. She knows she’s smart, and her intellect has been known to ruffle more than a few feathers in the courts. She knows how the political game is played, almost moreso than Anne herself. This is why all the men keep coming to her and curry favor with her so they can use Sarah to bring their agendas straight to Anne. But Sarah is her own voice and mind and rarely cares about anyone’s word, outside of a formal setting. She’s brutally honest with Anne, despite her genuine love for her, which is eventually part of what leads Anne into Abigail’s arms eventually, making the stoic and no-nonsense Lady vulnerable for the first time in what can only be assumed to be a very long time.
But as deliciously bitchy as both Abigail and Sarah are, make no mistake that Anne is a sidelined conquest for the ladies. Anne is wonderfully written herself. She’s spoiled and a bit of a nut-ball. When a small band is playing out in the courtyard, Anne quickly gets up to scream at them to leave. But while you could argue that’s only one occurrence, she’s not blind to the rivalry that develops between Abigail and Sarah. <<<SPOILERS – highlight to reveal>>> [ She happily sleeps with Abigail, with zero care about Sarah’s feelings. She enjoys the sweet proverbial sugar that Abigail pours in her ears, as disingenuous as she gets overtime. To make matters even more hilarious, there’s a scene where Sarah begs her to send Abigail away, but Anne replies with, “I don’t want to. Besides, I like it when she puts her tongue inside me.” Dude, I couldn’t stop laughing. That was just so… amazingly fucked up to say in front of her lover. But it doesn’t stop there. In another scene, she shows that she’s not afraid to boss Abigail around, and have sex with Sarah on the side anyway. It’s like, fuck, there’s no good guys in this movie, is there? Well guess what? No. No there isn’t, and it’s so yummy. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Here’s a list of smaller things that I enjoyed.
- There’s a dude in this movie with a prized duck named Horatio, the fastest duck in England. I mean, how do you hear that without getting a giggle?
- For much of the movie, Anne is confined to a wheelchair, which starts off as a cheap looking thing that any moron could make in their own backyard, but eventually becomes almost a throne on wheels. I want one for Christmas. Santa, do your thing!
- I’m sure many of the scenes didn’t actually happen in real life, like Sarah winding up in a sex cult (presumably), but I’m a little disappointed that she didn’t end up briefly becoming the leader and assuming control over it. Still, hilarious as it was presented.
Overall, this film is just great and I love it. I would love to see this again. It’s got everything that makes a good dramatic comedy. The performances are amazing, the story is delightfully raunchy and well-crafted, it’s as perfect a period piece as you can get. Hey, if you have a thing against the historical inaccuracies, then keep it to yourself and don’t spoil the fun for the rest of us. If it isn’t obvious, this gets a glowing endorsement from me. This is a must-see. Not for the kiddies, but anyone looking for a proper adult comedy will find it here.
My honest rating for THE FAVOURITE: 5/5
This week’s reviews:
Next week’s reviews:
- ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE
- THE POSSESSION OF HANNAH GRACE
- HEAD FULL OF HONEY
- TODOS LO SABEN / EVERYBODY KNOWS