Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, and Olivia Coleman give royal performances in Fox Searchlight’s The Favourite. Inspired by British history in an era with no shortage of similar content, this feature stands apart with appearances at prestigious film festivals around the world. Now in limited release, The Favourite has enough buzz to land a few nominations and expand to wider markets in the near future.
Queen Anne (Coleman) may have the crown, but her closest confident Sarah (Weisz) is behind all of her important decisions, including England’s war with France. When Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Stone) arrives at the palace, she is given a job as a maid and soon wins favor with the Queen. But Abigail quickly upsets the balance, drawing too much of the Queen’s attention for Sarah’s tastes and beginning to sway her decisions in an intricate balance of power.
Once the characters are established, the film plays like an intricate dance with Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone creatively maneuvering around each other to be the queen’s favorite confidant. All three lead actresses have impeccable comedic timing and while the film is light on plot, it’s more often than not enjoyable because of the dichotomy of their relationship. The three main characters are catty and spiteful in mostly cordial ways, but occasionally they slap each other around a bit for comedic and dramatic effect.
The entire film is about these three women and their relationship, which crosses the line from friendly to… friendlier. They are calling all the shots, with the few male characters almost entirely manipulated by them as they work the system and betray each other. Another interesting aspect is that the men in the film spend more time and money on their appearance than the women do and the actors have fun with the reversal of typical gender roles for the times. The women wear the pants and the hoop skirts.
The film is lavish, with stylish costumes and exquisite locations. Historic Hatfield House serves as the set for the majority of the film, which is perhaps most famous in film for doubling as Wayne Manor in the Batman films. Sandy Powell’s costume designs are eye popping and opulent.
As good as the acting, costumes, and settings are, the story ultimately plateaus and wears itself thin. Many scenes are shot with a fisheye lens, likely to get a wider shot in tight spaces, which serves as an odd distraction and a stark reminder that this is a modern film. And viewers will need a twisted sense of humor to enjoy the third act, including the abrupt ending.
There’s a lot to praise in The Favourite, from memorable performances to juicy dramatic and comedic moments. However, the film is all setup and little plot, leaving nothing to really resolve and resulting in an unsatisfying ending. While based on a true story, some creative liberty should have been employed to round it out.
I give The Favourite 3 out of 5 vomitoriums.