It is the 1700s and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne of England, presiding over war with the French.
In her ear is Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), who reaps many benefits from her close relationship with the eccentric monarch. At one point as Anne exits a room she accuses a pageboy of looking at her. She repeatedly asks him if he looked at her. Eventually she says “Look at me” and when he finally does, she screams into his face “DON’T YOU LOOK AT ME!!!!”
Into this scenario comes Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), Sarah’s cousin, in desperate need of elevation from the gutters where she has fallen thanks to her gambling drunkard of a father who sold her off to a “Fat German with a thin cock” before burning down their house.
Abigail is an enterprising young lass and she catches on quickly to the state of affairs, expertly playing the various members of court to her own advantage, vying with her cousin to be the Queen’s “favourite”.
She arrives at the palace in a carriage, from which she is pushed into a puddle of shit and mud before making her way into an audience with her cousin where she boldly asks for a job as a servant girl. One night she steals a horse to ride into the woods to find herbs with which to treat the Queen’s gout, and tricks her way into Annes bedroom to apply these, risking a beating.
The performances from all three actresses are outstanding. Anne seems slightly mad but there is much more beneath the surface including enormous tragedy, the Duchess mysterious and controlling and Abigail the picture of innocence, doing her best to survive the various hurdles life has thrown her way.
Slowly though, we begin to see another side to all their stories and the film reveals much about power and relationships and the way with which human beings go about using whatever they can to get ahead or in some cases just survive.
The costumes and sets are breathtaking, the writing excellent with a sharp eye for brutal wit, and I can’t recall so much laughter in a film as absurd as this for some time.
It’s as if Les Misérables was mashed up with Monty Python.
Destined to be heralded for the three superb performances, The Favourite is a sure-fire Oscar contender across multiple categories.
Whip-Smart, Weird & Wonderful with 3 Oscar-Worthy Performances – 5 Stars