Happy Christmas Eve everybody!!!!
As the end of the year approaches and award season nears some of the most hyped films of the year are starting to emerge and one of those movies is a little historical comedy called “The Favourite”. Starring some powerhouse names and featuring an intriguing narrative that pits two cousins against each other for the favor of a queen I wasn’t sure what to think of this film when I began seeing previews especially since comedy is probably my least favorite genre. But once it earned a Golden Globe nominations I knew I had to check it out and see what the buzz is about for myself. So, is “The Favourite” worthy of its award season accolades? Let’s find out. This is my review of “The Favourite”.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT
“The Favourite” takes place in the early 18th Century during the rule of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and focuses on the real-life cousins Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) who jockeyed to be the queen’s court favourite during the war with the French in 1708. Sarah enjoys a close relationship with the queen which has allowed her to become one of the most influential women in Britain. However, when her disgraced cousin Abigail arrives to take a job in the palace she quickly grows close to the queen herself. As the cousins struggle for control over the highest ruler in the land dark secrets about their individual relationships with the queen are revealed, the cousins find themselves tools in party politics, and an often hilarious war of words and wit plays out to see who will maintain power and the queen’s favor.
I’ll start off pretty bluntly stating I loved this movie. I went into it not quite knowing what to expect but it turned out to be an interesting, engaging and very funny comedy with some real historical content to back it up. The humor built into this film is just so effective and it’s all thanks to a smart, smooth and well written script that packs attitude, spunk and an incredibly natural flow. This film relies heavily on foul language, epic and stylish one-liners and the natural charisma and charm of its leads to add humor to a story that could have worked very well as a more serious drama, but works even BETTER as a dramedy. The humor actually enhances the story and brings out the personality of these characters rather than feeling like an add on to make the story more lighthearted. The dialogue is written in a way that you can’t help but chuckle, but the impact of these words on the characters is still felt whether it’s positive or negative. That’s hard to do. It takes sharp writing to present dialogue that feels natural and plays out like a real conversation while also making it effectively humorous, but “The Favourite” pulls it off.
The acting is just awesome in this movie too, some of the best I’ve seen all year in fact. The entire cast is charming, fun and unique starting with the two leads, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. The banter these two share is so enjoyable and it really feels like the two of them had fun with their roles and playing off each other. However, its not just their own banter than works. They play off other characters as well with the likes of Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn and others playing side characters that interact with the ladies at different points in the story, sometimes even getting intimately involved with them. It’s so much fun to see what these characters do and how they interact with each other on screen. Each one has a very different, clearly defined motivation and watching them all try to play each other in this epic game of give and take without ANYONE feeling out of place or misused just blew me away. At the core of it all though is the Queen, played by Olivia Colman. This film presents Queen Anne as somewhat of a tool to her competing potential favourites and the members of parliament. A main aspect of the story is her attempt to act as a ruler on her own, free of the control of those around her. Olivia Colman may turn in the best performance of the entire film trying to juggle Anne’s longing for a personal connection with someone she trusts as well as her desire to be a good ruler and make the right choices on her terms.
Aside from the acting and the humor this movie just looks great. The costumes, the backdrops, the overall style of the film…it all comes off like we have time traveled back to the 18th century with a very authentic feel that deserves to be commended. I can’t actually say whether or not all the details put into this film are truly accurate to the period, but it certainly felt like it when I was watching it. The great thing is some of these aspects even play into the humor with some nice subtle jabs at the ridiculousness of the style of the time. I just found it all to be beautifully done and it really allowed me to immerse myself in this world that the film was trying to portray. I felt like I was watching a true flashback to a bygone era and while I’ve seen a lot of movies that have taken me back in time with the visuals and set choices I can’t remember the last time I watched a period piece that did it so effectively.
One of the most interesting aspects of this film though is how it presents the triangle of the queen and the two cousins. There are some interesting details to these relationships I won’t spoil here, including a pretty interesting twist, but watching the two cousins try to one-up each other is not only fun, it feels like this is truly how it could have gone down in real life. The competitive nature of this triangle could have very easily been overblown but the cousins end up finding some very authentic ways of beating each other for the queen’s favor. It’s amusing to see how they do it but it never goes into ridiculous territory. Essentially, we’re watching a war of siblings try to get the adult’s attention and in order to do that one of them has to go. The longer their interpersonal war wages on, which mimics the political aspects of the film perfectly by the way, the more extreme their attempts to gain an edge get until they start taking things too far and all of a sudden there are real consequences. It’s a fun story that makes for an amusing and suspenseful two hours as you experience the shots taken from one cousin to the next and anxiously wait to see who finally wins out when it’s all said and done and how they do it.
There’s not a whole lot I have to complain about with “The Favourite” but every movie has its negatives and this one is no different. To start, one aspect of “The Favourite” that could be an issue for some is the politics. I heavily enjoyed watching the two women go back and forth and try to outwit each other to become the queen’s favourite, but when the politics of the time came into play things got a whole lot less interesting. Sure it’s pretty neat to see that these two women are on opposite sides of the aisle and their attempts to woo the queen allow them the opportunity to help the political parties, but what I think this film was going for was an attempt to criticize the role men of the era had in controlling women using the political battle as a metaphor. If that was the goal it doesn’t work. Instead the politics plays out as a typical B-story and even though this allows for some interesting characters to enter the picture it’s nowhere near as interesting as the battle between the cousins. It’s not really a BAD element of the story per say but definitely the least enjoyable part of the narrative for me personally.
The one thing that DID annoy me about “The Favourite” though was this odd choice to shoot some scenes with a wide angle lens, as shown in the screenshot above. This appears several times in the film and I could never see the point of it. I’m sure there was some kind of artistic purpose, but it doesn’t really enhance the movie and it feels out of place considering how little it’s used and how randomly it shows up. It’s just an odd shooting choice and took me out of the film for a brief moment each time it showed up on screen. I just didn’t get it. Maybe it was meant to accentuate some kind of chaos but instead it disoriented me in places where I didn’t feel like such a sensation was appropriate or really helped build on the story in any way.
All-in-all I LOVED this movie. I went into it expecting a lot because of its award season buzz and within the first half hour I knew I was experiencing something unique and entertaining. I just had to much fun watching it all play out. The conflict between the cousins is a delight to experience with the three lead actresses turning in some of their best work. The dialogue is spot on, the sets, backdrops and costumes are gorgeous and period friendly and the story feels ripped right out of history even if a few details may have been embellished for the sake of the drama and entertainment. I’m not a huge fan of comedies, but THIS film is the kind of comedy I can get behind. Even the negatives this movie has going against it don’t hurt it that bad. To be blunt this is one of my favorite movies of the year (fitting considering the title) and is one of the most entertaining, well written, well-acted and engaging comedies and historical dramas I’ve seen in a VERY long time.