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The Favourite (2018) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper).

January 6, 2019 | By | Reply More

Early in the 18th century two members of the court of England’s Queen Anne fight a secret war between themselves to be the Queen’s favorite. The two would-be court favourites plot and scheme against each other and perpetually get in each other’s way. The film could have been called ‘The Madness Of Queen Anne’. The setting eventually gets claustrophobic and we rarely are more than a few feet from the Queen’s bed.

Some of the decisions of how to present the film might make it a little hard to follow for Americans. The history might be a little easier for English viewers. Similarly, some of the humour might go over Americans’ heads. Anglophiles may find there is plenty of period detail to keep them busy while they enjoy the story. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos; Written by Deborah Davis, Tony McNamara. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10.

It is the time of the reign of Queen Anne (played by Olivia Colman). Perhaps it might better be said that it is the time of Queen Anne’s failure to reign. Anne lets the real ruling be done by close friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) who effectively and covertly rules in Sarah’s place. Sarah’s cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone), is homeless and comes to Anne’s estate in the hopes of finding work.

The household initially makes her a kitchen maid. All the while, she is suffering the cruel tricks and jokes of the current staff. It takes people a little while to realise that the new kitchen maid is not one to trifle with. She is a supreme manipulator of other people. She does not have a forgiving manner, even for her cousin, Lady Sarah. Life at the court of the queen is less a pleasure  and more a jungle where everyone fights for survival power games. This is a story that should appeal to fans of ‘Dangrerous Liaisons’.

The Favourite

The Favourite

Perhaps what makes this film most worthwhile is its images of 1708 Britain. The Queen does not know if her country is at war or not and is happy just to romp with precisely 17 rabbits. The proper court sport is the racing of long neck ducks. Ducks are used like skeet for the shooting. Period detail is lavished on the film. Architecture, fashions, jewellery, room decor are intricately well recreated for the period feel.

If this were a story involving Henry VIII or George III, viewers might have a better idea of who the major characters were and would recognise the historic context of the film. We Yanks may have a little trouble following the politics. It does help the viewer that the two main characters are played by familiar actresses, Stone and Weisz. Even so, the narrative draws the viewer to place the events of the film historically. Director Lanthimos takes some time to show the absurd fashions and occasionally what seems the ridicules dancing of the period.

One dance seems to have been borrowed from the film ‘Top Secret’. Credits and chapter titles appear in a font/style appropriate to the period, but they are very hard to read. The writing on a page will be arranged to fit in two congruent side-by-side squares, one denser with letters and one less. I have seen this font and arrangement used, but I was never sure of the reason. Today it is almost unreadable.

For its period detail this film is well worth the effort to create it. I rate ‘The Favourite’ +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.

(c) Mark R. Leeper 2019

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Category: Films, MEDIA

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