The Favourite - review
by Cat Edwards
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite turns the historical film genre on its head. In Lanthimos’ film, the audience is not greeted by restrained Austen-esque scenes; instead, The Favourite shows explicitly the lavishly excessive nature of life within the Royal Court, and does not shy away from it.
The Favourite details the life of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and two of her courtiers: Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), a long-established friend of the queen, controlling and cold, and Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), who is new to the court and aims to climb the social ladder by becoming closer to the queen. However, unlike most historical films which tend to focus on emotional detachment and singular acts of political and historical significance, this film details the monopoly of the queen’s affections and how a greater political precedence is set through the queen’s sexual relationships with the two women.
The lesbian relationships that Lanthimos explores are treated with respect, and by bringing this tone to an otherwise comedic film, he prevents the relationships from being fetishized. The romance between the queen and her two lovers shows true affection and emotional integrity, and the arguments between Sarah and the queen show a relationship that is passionate and multi-layered.
However, the competitive nature between Abigail Hill and Sarah Churchill is something that is hilarious. They are both motivated by an ambition to higher status and their manipulation of the queen is almost pantomime-like in the ways that each character tries to outmanoeuvre the other. Nicholas Hoult is also brilliant in his role as Robert Harley, the serpent-like politician who attempts (and fails) to play puppet master to the relationship that Abigail Hill has to the queen.
The most gripping part of the film is undoubtedly Colman’s portrayal of the queen. She is able to make the character seem at one moment utterly ludicrous and self-absorbed and in the next, incredibly vulnerable and desperate for love. It is Colman’s skill as an actor that truly makes the film so enjoyable, and it is little wonder that this role has already been critically acclaimed.