The Favourite

Directed by critically acclaimed Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos whose 2015 movie The Lobster was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, The Favourite is a rather bizarre historical drama containing elements of dark humor that is elevated to be one of the best movies of the year because of the Oscar-worthy acting performances of the three lead actresses. The story is based on real life events that took place during the time of the British monarch Queen Anne in the early 18th century, at a time when England was at war with France. Played by Olivia Colman who is nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance, Queen Anne is portrayed as a rather weak and frail figure as a result of her struggles with illness, including gout, and is at the center of palace intrigue including two ladies of the Court. The Duchess of Marlborough Sarah Churchill, played by Oscar winner Rachel Weisz, is initially the favorite of Queen Anne and is given great responsibility over matters of the state during the convalescence of the Queen. The audience quickly learns that Sarah is also the secret lover of Queen Anne who relies heavily on Sarah’s personal advice and looks to her for support. Things are complicated with the arrival of Sarah’s young cousin Abigail Hill, played by Oscar winner Emma Stone, who has lost her position and is now seeking a job working at the Royal Palace. After she gets into the good graces of Queen Anne, Abigail begins a very tense rivalry with the Queen’s current favorite Sarah over who can become the coveted personal favorite of the rather buffoonish Queen. At the same time, the Queen’s power is being tested by the Member of Parliament Robert Harley, played by Nicholas Hoult, who opposes the monarchy’s plan to raise land taxes to support the unpopular war with France. The cunning ploys between the fiercely competitive Sarah and Abigail eventually come to a head and leads to Sarah temporarily being away from the Royal Court. With her absence, Abigail continues in haste her successful endeavor to curry favor with Queen Anne whose disconcerting and petty antics continue to bewilder the Court. Evident of her rise in stature, Abigail even begins a relationship with a baron named Samuel Masham, played by Joe Alwyn. A key aspect of the filmmaker’s unique style, the movie is filled with some rather outlandish and quite simply weird moments, however, it is to a much lesser degree than his earlier works. The strangeness is quite effective in satirizing the excesses and eccentricities of a Royal Court, particularly Queen Anne’s in the early 1700s at the corroding height of the British Monarchy. Overall, I found it to be a highly entertaining and fascinating film that delves deep into the closed-door politics of the Royal Palace, and it is very special as a result of the brilliant casting of three actresses at the top of their game.

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