More noise than signal

The Favourite

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

In this, I assume 100% historically accurate documentary of Queen Anne’s court from The Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos, we examine the most trusted courtiers of Olivia Coleman’s Queen, initially Rachel Weisz’s Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, essentially ruling on a disinterested and, well, let’s politely say mercurial Anne’s behalf. Sarah’s husband James effective controls the Army, so they’re quite the power couple, although what he’d make of her affair with the Queen is, well, not remotely important, other than as a way to introduce this fact into the review. Seamless. I am quite the master storyteller. Move over Stevie King.

Into this milieu of politicking between Churchill, Anne, and the leaders of the Tories and Whigs over the never-ending wars with other European powers steps Emma Stone’s Abigail Hill, a younger cousin of Sarah’s who has fallen on hard times. Initially employed as a scullery maid, she soon proves her worth and is raised to Sarah’s lady of the bedchamber. However, she aims to raise herself higher and supplant Sarah and sets about doing so, which is doing scant service to about ninety minutes of exceptional scheming, counter-scheming and character work, but I think it’s best left for you to discover, dear listener.

In truth, I don’t seem to have all that much to say about The Favourite, other than to recommend it as highly as I can. It’s a fascinating narrative with fascinating characters, tied together with Yorgos Lanthimos’s fascinating quirkiness that I appreciated from The Lobster even if I wasn’t so taken with the film overall. Most importantly, every plaudit that Coleman, Weisz and Stone have been receiving for this film is entirely deserved. Three superb performances that was a pleasure to watch, and about a million miles away from the traditionally stuffy and obnoxious period dramas this sort of thing would usually entail, just as frequently raw and emotional as it is funny.

If this isn’t at or near the top of my films of 2019 list then we’ll have a hell of a year ahead of us.