A Funny, Sexy Romp
Because I am always a sucker for British comedy and farces, The Favourite is just my cup of tea. It may not be yours, but plenty of people have already flocked to see this high-style, elegant comedy and sexually titillating movie from director Yorgos Lanthimos. Now gathering momentum in the race toward awards season, this story of Queen Anne and her unfitness for leading a country is now more than topical, to say the least.
Starting the new year off has brought The Favourite 12 London nominations from BAFTA, including Best Actress for Olivia Colman, Best Supporting Actress for both Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, Best Director, Best Film, Best British Film, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Production Design, Best Costume Design and Best Hair and Makeup! It received more nominations than any other film of the past season.
This deliciously gossipy film has stirred up controversy for its liberal take on human sexuality, all of it being displayed with sophisticated aplomb. Even Rachel Weisz herself said that the film is a “funnier, sex driven All About Eve “(Bette Davis’ 1950 triumph). The close relationship between three women—Queen Anne, Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough, and Abigail Hill, Sarah’s poor cousin makes up the core of the story.
In 1708, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on a shaky throne that is at war with France. The dithering Queen suffers from gout and is not healthy. She is attended by Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), an ambitious lady who more or less has taken control of the Queen’s duties. To wrap the Queen around her finger, Sarah has also become her secret lover in a flagrant lesbian affair. Colman is marvelous as the slightly off-center Queen who would rather play with her pet rabbits. Sarah would rather play with the Queen to achieve her nefarious goals. This is the best part Weisz has played in some time, and she grabs every opportunity to gnash her teeth or cajole the manipulated Queen into doing as she wishes. Sarah thinks she is the monarch and not Anne.
To liven things up, director Lanthimos concocts a hilarious entrance for Abigail (Emma Stone) to arrive at Court. Impoverished and disgraced by her father’s squandering of the family fortune, Abigail is forced to work as a scullery maid in the dank bowels of the palace kitchen.
As any female who wants to crash the glass domed Tiffany ceiling, Abigail worms her way into her monarch’s good graces. Abigail devises an herbal salve to rub the pain away from Queen Anne’s swollen legs. Colman is a delightful ham in her screams of pain and discomfort and plays to the balcony, but she is very, very funny, and endears herself to the audience. Abigail gets duly awarded a position as Lady-in-Waiting and thus applies a well-deserved smirk on her face.
The duel between Abigail and Sarah now begins. Which of them will achieve “favorite” with the Queen, and which will happily share her bed? The battles between the two warring vixens are hilarious.
The film’s historical plot is rather complicated, and we’re sure certain liberties were taken with the truth, but the screenwriters managed to squeeze in some heterosexual antics as well. Abigail has been allowed by the Queen to marry the baron Samuel Masham, played by the devastatingly handsome Joe Alwyn, a delicious pastry in the Queen’s Court. This will restore Abigail’s social status. And delectable Nicholas Hoult is given a chance to play the randy sex stud Robert Harley, a member of the court. Although with his over-the-top wigs, dandy clothes, and layered-on piles of makeup, he looks more like a left-over drag queen than a straight stud muffin.
The film is a marvelous sexual romp and a very amusing look at what may have been happening in Queen Anne’s court. We don’t really know for sure, but the great Word War II hero Winston Churchill himself wrote about the female triangle in his biographies. So, there must be some truth to it all.
(Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures and rated “R” for strong sexual content, nudity and language.)