THE FAVOURITE
(***½)
"...the relationships between the three female protagonists is wholly original and fascinating..."

A 17th Century Lusty, Wickedly Funny Satire

(121618) The Favourite is a quirky, intellectual and often bawdy comedy about a female rivalry for power in the court of Queen Anne. This delightful romp does a superb job at exploring the connection between sexual politics and power as it wickedly mocks royal excess and eccentricity.

The film has generated near unanimous critical acclaim and multiple Golden Globe nominations including Best Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Best actress (for Olivia Coleman) and Best Supporting Actress (Emma Stone), but the overlooked third lead performance by Rachel Weisz is just as good. The film was made by Yorgos Lanthimos, a very unconventional and promising newer Greek director who always makes bizarre, inexplicable films that are hard to explain or sum up in a preview. He made Dogtooth (2010) a film about a father who keeps his offspring prisoners in an effort to keep them at the level of children; Alps (2011) in which people impersonate deceased people in front of their grieving family members; The Lobster (2015) set in a dystopian society in which people become animals if they cannot find a mate; and Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) in which a man must kill a member of his own family to avoid his own death.

In The Favourite, Olivia Coleman is hilarious playing a perpetually tortured Queen Anne who has endless physical and psychological ailments. The queen only finds relief when her servants rub her feet and provide other physical services for her.

She lost thirteen children to death so she adopted 13 rabbits that she can nurture instead. The rabbits hop around constantly and they are everywhere. This is the first film I have seen that may cause people to have nightmares about bunnies (one of the most significant scenes in the film is a rabbit dream).

Abigail (played by the always charming Emma Stone) is a former aristocrat who has fallen on hard times. She has fallen so low she must work as a cutlery maid even though she seems smarter and better educated than many in the royal family.

When Abigail first comes to the castle, the cinematographer, Robert Ryan effectively uses fish eye lenses and off kilter angles to make the royal palace seem as monstrous and alien as any Sci-Fi locale. Ryan’s inventive work in these scenes of opulent horror may be worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Right away Abigail gets into a conflict with Lady Sarah (played by the often marvelous Rachel Weisz) who uses S & M to control the queen and steer her politics (in their sexcapes the two switch roles and the queen becomes the servant). Sarah is the main one who gets the queen into an unpopular war with France. But Abigail slowly gains favor with the queen and ends up being her preferred companion. Part of the reason maybe that she seems to genuinely like the rabbits

Sarah is used to being the belle of the ball, and begins to threaten Abigail to back off from the queen. During a shooting lesson she warns Abigail that sometimes guns accidentally go off and shoot people.

The two women are like opposites. Abigail acts sweet and demure around the queen and wins her over with caresses while Sarah attracts her with violence, domination and name calling (she repeatedly refers to the queen as a lowly badger). But underneath her veneer Abigail also displays a Machiavellian cunning.

Her normally attractive co-star Rachel Weisz shows courage for allowing herself to be shot in makeup which makes her ugly and the most unflattering camera angles possible. You can understand why the queen eventually responds more to Abigail’s not completely unselfish, kindness and compassion which sets up an intensifying final conflict.

Although the film is extremely erotic, amusing and absorbing, it never quite rises to the level of its director’s previous masterpiece, The Lobster. But the relationships between the three female protagonists is wholly original and fascinating. The film may be too weird, kinky, and darkly humorous for some audience members but I had a terrific time. Just don’t bring the kids.

Directed by:  Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by:  Screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara
Starring:   Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone
Released:  112318
Length:  120 minutes
Rating:   Rated R for Strong sexual content, nudity and language

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org
and www.chicagopoetry.org

THE FAVOURITE  ©  2018 Element Pictures
Review © 2018 Alternate Reality, Inc.