The Favourite (15)

I’m not going to tell you that The Favourite is incredible just because it won a Golden Globe. In fact, it’s rather disappointing.

England is at war with France and a frail and somewhat eccentric Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne. By her side is Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) who sees to the Queen’s every need. She does so while manipulating the royal to ensure that the current political system favours her husband at all costs.

The Queen is happy to race lobsters, have extravagant parties and gorge on cake until she vomits, leaving the role of discussing matters of state to Lady Sarah.

Then a new servant named Abigail (Emma Stone) joins the royal household and soon enough a fight to be ‘The Favourite’ of the Queen ensues. But in truth this isn’t just a battle for love, it’s also one for power in world dominated by men with women having little say in any feasible situation.

Lady Sarah has always been Anne’s closest friend, but Abigail threatens to destroy their relationship alongside bringing the country to its knees. It becomes clear that the two women will go to any lengths to secure their position as the Queen’s favourite.

All is certainly not fair in love and war. The stakes have never been higher with the Queen’s decent into madness gaining more momentum and the country in the midst of a ruinous battle. Is this still a competition either want to win? Is it truly worth it?

The buzz around Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is palpable. But I’m not sure if people are going to see it because they are genuinely interested in the movie, or because they feel obliged to like it and see it due to the awards buzz.

The sad fact is that the best parts of the movie were shown in the trailers. So, when you watch the movie in full you’re not left with much more than a husk with occasional laughs.

I really don’t understand why the Best Performance award went to Olivia Colman for The Favourite, not Elsie Fisher for Eighth Grade or Charlize Theron for Tully. Unlike Christian Bale in Vice we don’t see that much of a physical transformation from Colman. She mutters and shrieks throughout and is undoubtedly funny. But enough to win awards? I think not.

Sidenote, if you haven’t seen Eighth Grade yet, you really should. It’s awkwardly beautiful, a raw and bittersweet account of what it means to be a teenager today.

Don’t get me wrong Lanthimos’ The Lobster was peculiar but at least it was funny throughout. He made it very clear that you were in for a strange old ride, that it was unequivacally a black comedy. Whereas the Favourite is based on real life events. Well perhaps not the lesbian sex scenes, that’s still being debated.

The main issue is that the movie tries to be simultanously serious, funny and controversial. It also veers off too many times to the point when you slowly become less invested in the story. Although it does come back full circle for Emma Stone’s character who ends up in the same position as she was in the start, belonging to someone else, her life not her own, and being used for the sexual pleasure of others.

I’m refusing to drink from the Kool-Aid and can see The Favourite for what it is. It tries too hard to be out there, to be controversial but in the end labours its point. The fact is that the subject matter the movie covers is no longer a taboo.

Yes, it’s funny in parts, but mostly in scenes that Nicholas Hoult appears in. I’m all for strong female leading roles. But this just isn’t a great example of one, or three. When you compare the performances from the female leads to the likes of Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell in Beautiful Boy and Christan Bale in Vice, the gap widens further.

By Ruth Walker

★★☆☆☆

Awards Stats

  • Winner of 1 Golden Globe – Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Musical or Comedy.
  • Nominated for 12 BAFTA Film Awards including Best Film & Leading Actress.

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