#Honest Review : The Favourite
3 stars out of 5
Director : Yorgos Lanthimos
There has been much hype concerning this film and I have to say that I was really looking forward to seeing it. I’m a huge fan of Olivia Colman and I also love anything to do with Royal history. I first heard about the film last Autumn and I made a point of reading up on Queen Anne in order that I would understand the context.
Set in the early-eighteenth century, when England is at war with France, The Favourite tells the story of the relationship between Queen Anne and her somewhat domineering and controlling confidante and lover, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. Sarah’s position at court is usurped by her impoverished cousin, Abigail Hill, who schemes and deceives her way into the Queen’s affection. I knew by its very nature that this film was going to be more a study in intrigue and politics than a straightforward biography. It is in a similar vein to such films as Amadeus (1984) and Marie Antoinette (2006). For those of you unclear about the historical background, Queen Anne was a somewhat hesitant ruler and preferred to pass most of the major decision making onto the Duchess of Marlborough. The great tragedy in Anne’s life was that despite being almost continually pregnant, she lost seventeen children. Some were miscarried, some stillborn and others died in early childhood or infancy. That level of tragedy inevitably left Anne exhausted and unable to be an effective and present monarch. She also suffered from painful episodes of gout as well as emotional over-eating.
The quality of acting is sublime, well, apart from one rogue miscasting in the role of the Cook. Inevitably, Olivia Colman steals the entire film. What is particularly impressive is Colman’s ability to appear as something of a chameleon, she can make herself appear uglier and weighed down by the drudgery of Queen-ship. Her entire face seems to hang down with the burden of her responsibility. When we see her enjoying her lovers, the face appears to lift. She makes much of Anne’s somewhat child-like need for approval and love.
Costumes, courtesy of Sandy Powell and cinematography courtesy of Robbie Ryan, are equally impressive, and I am sure that these will win big at the Oscars. I loved the use of real locations; Hatfield and Hampton Court Palace, rather than CGI.
All the characters are well-formed and believable. Nicholas Hoult plays against type as the devious Harley and Mark Gatiss has thankfully managed to tone down his tendency for ham acting, although I am slightly reminded of The League of Gentlemen in his portrayal of Lord Marlborough.
In The Favourite we see the very baseness of the human condition. There is an awful lot of sex portrayed more as a bodily function than through love. There is a great deal of filth and mud in all senses. Secondary characters are debauched and selfish or downright corrupt. Much is made to show how fashions of the time were ridiculous with huge wigs and men wearing badly-applied lipstick and mascara. Everything takes on a somewhat grotesque appearance, possibly as a reflection of the times. In fact, much of the film feels as though it is a living Hogarth painting with its lewdness and grime.
This is not a rip-roaring fast paced adventure and there are some occasions when the pace is a little too slow and the sound a little too muffled, but it is an intelligent and thought-provoking movie that on the whole is enjoyable to watch because of the high calibre of its actors along with the attention to detail. The ending is slightly lame and seems to peter out rather than reach a climatic finish. I gather that this a criticism frequently applied to Yorgos Lanthimos’s films. However, on the whole it is a great film and should ensure that British film-making is centre stage in the next Academy Awards.