Sympathy for Queen Anne in The Favourite

Emma Stone in the film THE FAVOURITE. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Well, that was interesting…

In many ways, The Favourite (detailing the competition between a Duchess and a would-be “Lady” to be Queen Anne of England’s right-hand woman in the early 1700’s), is the best kind of historical drama.  It made my wife and I want to google and research the facts of the matter as soon as it was over, and indeed all the key players were based on actual people, but liberties were taken with timelines and how they related to each other for dramatic effect.  The film is also blessed with amazing lighting (giving Barry Lyndon a run for its money when it comes to candle-lit naturalism, especially in the breathtaking nighttime palatial scenes), exquisite costumes (a work of art in their own right), transporting sets, and award worthy acting.

But, it’s also a Yorgos Lanthimos film, the man who directed one of my most loathed films of recent memory, The Killing of a Sacred Deer.  So there is a tone of satire, moments of gleefully wicked farce, and well, just plain weird moments.

There are duck races, debauched feasts, and one of the best royal ball dancing sequences I’ve ever seen that’s so offhand in its anachronistic absurdity one can’t help but think, “Wait…What? I kinda liked that!”  Though the Queen apparently hated the funky moves.

And there’s a miracle of a performance from Olivia Coleman as Queen Anne, who even while she is shrilly yelling at helpless errand boys, somehow manages to make you sympathize with her situation (that included 17 miscarriages, battles with gout, and ultimately a stroke).  Heavy is the crown of someone who has no idea what she is doing, has been surrounded by vipers, and all she wants to do is love on some rabbits.

Yes, Emma Stone is a wicked delight.  And Rachel Weisz is perfection, and get’s gifted with many of the best lines that she delivers with equal parts droll ennui and sarcastic venom (her closing remark of, “Oh, the mail has arrived,” is a contextual howler after all that happened).  But it’s Olivia Coleman who you feel the most for, and as such, is the most interesting indeed.

Written by D. H. Schleicher

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