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One look at the title of this film, The Favourite, and you know by the spelling of the second word that this story is connected to England. This Best Picture nominated movie is based upon the brief and somewhat obscure reign of Queen Anne, of England.
My mother, an avid history buff, accompanied me to this second to the last movie, during Oscar week.
The Favourite Cast
This biographical drama, with comedic overtones, stars Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicolas Hoult, James Smith and Mark Gatiss. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite carries an R rating, for language and sexuality, and has a run time of 1 hour and 59 minutes.
The Favourite is nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Colman, Best Supporting Actress for Stone and Weisz and Best Director for Lanthimos.
Queen Anne of England
It’s early in the 18th century, and England nears the end of a war with France. The reigning monarch, Queen Anne (Colman) is frail in body and mind and fraught with anxieties.
The government is divided, with Robert Harley (Hoult) and Sidney Godolphin (Smith) leading the opposing parties. Their grappling for control wearies the Queen, who relies on her companion for support and guidance. Sarah (Weisz) and Anne grew up as childhood friends. As the queen’s health declines, she depends more and more on Sarah to attend crucial meetings and carry out royal duties.
Sarah Churchill is intelligent, in a cunning way, and very much in alignment with Godolphin, who supports continued war with France. Her husband, John, Duke of Marlborough (Gatiss), leads the troops as the war winds down.
Sarah’s status with the Queen shifts when Abigail (Stone) arrives. Abigail is Sarah’s cousin. Her life took a downturn years ago, leaving her destitute, fallen in society, and seeking employment. Although she begins as a scullery maid in the castle, Abigail quickly works her way into the Queen’s favour. Anne suffers horribly from gout. When inflammation creates swelling, sores and tremendous pain, Abigail applies a soothing herbal poultice.
Abigail’s new position as the Queen’s personal assistant alarms Sarah, and the competition between the women begins. Sneaking into Queen Anne’s bedchamber one night, Abigail makes a shocking discovery. Sarah and the Queen are clandestine lovers.
Who is the Favourite?
As political strife heats up, Queen Anne finds herself caught between opposing parties, and between equally opposing women. Sarah continues to urge the Queen toward war. Abigail, who aligns with Harley and peace with France, appears more sympathetic and helpful toward the Queen.
Both women know that being Queen Anne’s favourite brings power and prestige and wealth. For Abigail, it even brings an arranged marriage that will restore her place in society.
As the Queen’s health continues to deteriorate, and her mood plummets, Abigail and Sarah vie for the coveted title of Favourite. And there can only be one.
My Thoughts on The Favourite
I attend the Best Picture nominated films with as little foreknowledge as possible. That way, I experience the movie and the story with a fresh perspective and no expectations. I’ve seen many historical films about England’s queens and kings, however, I knew very little about this particular monarch.
The Favourite is unique, in that it includes rich complex characters, an abundance of humor, and modern elements including clever camera work and music that is often jarring. Perhaps the best classification for this movie is dark comedy with historical overtones!
Queen Anne is the central figure and the movie revolves around her. She alternates between being reasonable and competent, and lost and child-like, wailing with despair. Her despondency and fragility is better understood when it is revealed that the 17 rabbits she keeps as pets in her bedchamber represent the children she lost. Losing one child fractures the soul. Imagine what losing 17 does.
And although he is not mentioned in the movie, the Queen had recently lost her spouse as well. With no surviving children, Anne is the last monarch of the House of Stuart.
Olivia Colman deserves her Oscar nomination. Her portrayal is nuanced and compelling to watch. Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are equally captivating in their roles. I’m grateful for the opportunity to see The Favourite, before tomorrow night’s Academy Awards.
One More Best Picture Movie to Review
I watched Vice tonight, completing the list of films. Watch for that review tomorrow.
Here are the nominees. Click the links for the reviews.
Rent The Favourite on Amazon Prime Video HERE.
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