Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Oh my Gosh. This film is both marvellous and marvellously, appallingly, petty.
The film captures the period of Queen Anne’s reign in the early 18th century when the English were at war with France and the Whigs and Tories were at odds with each other over rising taxes to fund the war. The pinnacle of court life was sweaty, dirty, smelly and probably lice-infected, if the disconcerting realism of living conditions depicted by director Yorgos Lanthimos aimed its attention to detail down to that extent, and if the camera zoomed right down on its subjects microscopic surfaces. It is so easy to forget − given the glorious costume dramas to which we are so frequently privy − how downright putrid lack of sewer pipes and refrigeration would have made court life. ‘The Favourite’ reminds viscerally:)
‘The Favourite’ revolves around the relationship of three women, one of whom has fallen from the comparative luxury of life in a privileged family (‘Abigail’ played by Emma Stone). Into the court of Queen Anne comes Abigail whose father lost her in a gambling wager to a man who treats her badly. Abigail is a girl of morality at this stage of her life, and has decided to appeal to her cousin Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) − chief confidante of Queen Anne − to improve her life and not be necessitated to continue bonking her present master to honour her father’s gambling debt.
Abigail’s cousin is Sarah Churchill. Sarah both tends to the spoilt and heartbroken Queen Anne’s emotional needs (Anne has lost 17 children) and, as we discover into the film, quite probably her sexual needs as well.
So what is our newcomer Abigail to do? She is aware of her tenuous, slightly improved position at court which she has leveraged by making herself charmingly indispensable to her cousin Sarah Churchill. She is also aware that her sexual favours − of value in her father’s gambling match − might now be put to further use. As you must note, Abigail really does have limited options and it is around Abigail’s desperation for relative security that ‘The Favourite’ takes on life. We see this once naïve country girl out-politic and out-dirty Anne’s entire court.
Catch ‘The Favourite’ at a cinema soon.
Well worth the ticket if you have a taste for a deeply dark ‘what’s a girl to do?’ saga … with lice!
(The historical background of ‘The Favourite’ is early 18th century. “Under Queen Anne, the Tories represented the resistance, mainly by the country gentry, to religious toleration and foreign entanglements. Toryism became identified with Anglicanism and the squirearchy and Whiggism with the aristocratic, landowning families and the financial interests of the wealthy middle classes….) Encyclopaedia Britannica