Our Editor is often taken for a mug when he’s given a tip for the favourite for the 3.30 at Kempton Park only to find that, having put a wedge of notes on the horse, he then finds it’s a 3- legged pony called Sad Ken better suited to a glue factory than a racecourse when it limps in in last position and has to be put down along with the jockey too. But we digress…….the first film of the new year is The Favourite a heavily tipped contender for Oscars glory with Olivia Colman as Queen Anne an increasingly erratic and swivel eyed Queen attended by her close consort Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz).
Queen Anne’s reign and personal life was a highly idiosyncratic one due more so to the lesbian relationship she had with Lady Sarah (this is the second lesbian themed film for Weisz after the recent Disobedience) who is the one who really makes the decisions of state . It’s all thrown into disarray when a down at heel dignitary Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives. A friend of Lady Sarah she has fallen on hard times and is determined to work her way up the ladder of the Royal House which she duly does and from here she battles with Lady Sarah to become the favourite of the Queen and all the privileges it affords.
Co written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara there’s number of ruses as the pair of feuding ladies in waiting get one up on each other to get what they want and as this is a Yorgos Lanthimos film its does get quite unusual at times. So we have a naked man being pelted with oranges, ducks are raced and Queen Anne’s huge array of bedroom pet rabbits are only part of it. And it’s all made more surreal with director Lanthimos stylized manner of shooting with much of the film shot with a fish eye lens for wide shots and low angles that are also unusually used for abrupt whip pans that only accentuates the oddness of this royal house.
What’s best though is that here is a film with three great female leads and only one male role, that of Robert Harley played well by Nicholas Hoult as a smarmy political pretender on the make. But it’s the three females who vie for attention. Olivia Colman is enjoyably eccentric in a role that sees her mentally unhinged veering from temper tantrums to sunny smiles that suggests she’s borderline bipolar and her frequent illnesses has her clearly deteriorating physical condition teetering on the abyss of being less than up to the job of making decisions of state. As Lady Sarah, Rachel Weisz is gloriously cunning with her efforts to maintain her position frustrated by Emma Stone’s Abigail wide eyed with ambition amazed at the secrets she uncovers in her rise to the favoured position. However anyone expecting a nice royal drama should be prepared for the onslaught of C-word bile filled abuse which all the characters throw around like verbal grenades at each other increasingly so as the film goes on and fans of royal dramas like The Crown should be forewarned and surprisingly the language has only earned the film a 15 certificate. There are three grat performances at the centre of The Favourite and it would be terribly unfair if all three were not nominated when it comes to Oscar time.
The fact that this is based, very loosely, on a true story with a certain degree of creative moments makes this even more extraordinary. The Favourite is a female ensemble piece costume drama with women showing they can be equally cut throat in their ambition to get to the top sometimes in the most undignified manner presented here in a highly enjoyable way.
Here’s The Favourite trailer…….