Where do I start with this latest outing (The Favourite) from director Yorgos Lanthimos?
I guess one place is to categorically state that the subjects – Queen Anne, Sarah Churchill and Abigail Masham (nee Hill) and the intrigue of the latter two’s battle for the Queen’s affections and good graces. Being unfamiliar with this period in English history, my go-to normally involves an obligatory Google or Wikipedia search.
But nope, not this time. I decided to go into the film relatively blind save for the knowledge of The Favourite winning honors at this year’s Venice Film Festival.
A Little Background
For those who may be in the dark concerning the particulars, I would suggest not only the Google but more specifically. In many ways, a review of this content sets the stage for what you will see at the cinema.
With that out of the way, I know you are on tenterhooks wondering – what I thought about the film. The short answer? I enjoyed it and highly recommend it. The best way I can summarize my feelings on The Favourite is “list” form, identifying things I liked and other aspects which left a little to be desired.
Since the latter is minor and basically consists of one solitary item, let me lead with that …
What Me No Likey
The Ending – what better place to start than with the ending, eh? Normally a disappointing ending takes a lot of the air out of a film. However in this case, while not being exactly what I expected, I viewed the overall film in quite a positive light. This is on the strength of the entirety of all which preceded it. So let’s go there and take a closer look at those aspects of The Favourite which I really enjoyed.
What Me Likey
Period Piece – I love me some costume dramas that is for sure. And this one does not disappoint in the slightest. A warning – as is the trend with contemporary takes on period pieces, there is an emphasis on the less hygienic practices that were often (but not always) behind the pomp and grandeur of court life. Certainly a few historical “inaccuracies” exist in the film. But since I never view any of these types of films as documentaries, I will allow it.
Court Intrigue – As previously mentioned, at the center of this story is the battle for Queen Anne’s attention. This main arc ties expertly into the “B” story – one that is all about militarism and political maneuvering within the Houses of Parliament. Everyone has an angle and ulterior motive, which at times produce an intriguing Venn diagram, where the Anne/Sarah/Abigail dynamic overlaps with the business of State. This interplay gives an enhanced meaning to the notion that all politics are personal. Side note: I am happy the focus of the story is an English monarch not named Elizabeth or Henry.
The Humor – This aspect of The Favourite threw me a bit, but in the most pleasant way possible. I do not know what I was expecting. I mean honestly, I know that Olivia Colman (Queen Anne) has the chops to go from drama to comedy and back again, but I know her mostly for her deft light comedic touch. My bad – I should have anticipated some humor. What I got was that and all a bit more. Additional props to Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone for their equally measured performances.
And that is not to say that the drama and intensity aren’t present (they most certainly were). But overall, it was a warm and welcomed surprise to have so much levity in a film which on its surface seemed so “serious.”
So there you have it – despite the one misstep in the closing seconds, I really can see why folks are getting behind and enjoying The Favourite.
The Favourite will hit cinemas next week in New York and LA, with other major markets rolling out over the following couple of weeks.