The Favourite

Tom’s Rating: 8/10 – Lucy’s Rating: 8/10 – Group Average 7.25/10.

Kicking off 2019, a group of us went to see The Favourite - an often dark but always crude comedy centred around two ladies competing for the favour of Olivia Coleman’s Queen Anne. Over nine, well-composed acts, Rachel Weisz, as Lady Marlborough, and Abigail, a fallen from grace once-Lady now-servant played by Emma Stone, wage an increasingly violent battle against each other to become Queen Anne’s favourite.

Beyond the laugh-out-loud moments provided by Coleman’s gout-plagued queen, The Favourite is more darkly satirical than outright funny. The film’s focus on the secret, erotic relations between Anne and her childhood friend Lady Marlborough is brutally frank - as some of the more colourful language makes clear. “Dear C***,” begins one of Lady Marlborough’s letters to her Queen.

The script also deftly ridicules the aristocratic Parliament and its members, excellently contrasted against the much more cunning battle between Abigail and Lady Marlborough. And beneath the humour of Queen Anne’s lavish habits is an undercurrent of gluttony and insensitivity to the world outside the Palace’s grounds. “Well, I’ve been wanting to give you a gift for some time,” says Queen Anne, announcing plans to build Blenheim Palace in the midst of the war against France. It’s a comedy that feels refreshingly raw.

Olivia Coleman’s Queen Anne races from stuporous to moody to raging to silly in an instant. And as her health deteriorates, the camera angles of Coleman descend lower and lower, finally looking up at the tempestuous Queen, post-stroke, in all her gritty morbidity. A combination of direction and Coleman’s own brilliant acting combine to give the The Favourite a sense of gore without the faintest whiff of blood.

The competition between Lady Marlborough and Abigal is also fairly well portrayed. The former using her deft intelligence and strong will to secure her position; the latter relying on her cutesy charm and a snakey, hidden determination to bend the will of those above her station. That said, at points the plot felt a little convenient, undermotivated, and somewhat anti-climatic.

By Act IX I was ready for the film to finish (without being sure whether it was about to). Perhaps the film lacked a little structure, but its final scene was appropriately absurd. With a little hindsight, it knitted together well enough and ranks among the better films I’ve seen recently.

Thomas Robinson
Thomas Robinson
Assistant Professor in Quantitative Comparative Politics

I am a political scientist studying representation, experimental methods and computational social science.