The Favourite is easily one of the best films of the year. It brings a historical story to life with intrigue, backstabbing, dark comedy, and incredible performances.
Sarah, Dutchess of Marlborough, is a close advisor and secret lover to Queen Anne in 18th Century England. When Abigail shows up looking for any sort of work, she is made to be a servant. But she quickly falls into favor with both Sarah and the Queen.
The biggest highlight of this movie – out of the many that are present – is easily the acting. Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone each bring their A-game for this movie. Colman plays the oft-ill and unpredictable Queen. She probably gives the best performance, as she simply disappears into this role. The Queen is paranoid about her image and quick to burst. This makes for a number of comedic moments, as well as some deeply emotional ones, once we learn what drives her to be this way.
Weisz plays the selfish and conniving Sarah, who effectively has most of the power in England due to the Queen’s propensity for poor health. Everything she does is an effort to give herself more power and to be in a higher standing within the government. Weisz brings a cold and unyielding demeanor to the character.
Stone, meanwhile, does more than just hold her own in a movie like this. Building off of her success in La La Land she brings a much more complex performance here in The Favourite. Abigail isn’t constantly vying for a high standing the way Sarah is, but she always has a plan and a reason for doing what she is doing.
This idea of everything being calculated comes from the way director Yorgos Lanthimos focuses on the characters at different points in the film. After the main dialogue or action of a scene is concluded, the camera will sometimes linger on a specific character for an extra few seconds so the audience is forced to try to interpret what they are thinking. This is especially true with Abigail. She becomes more or less the main character, while remaining the most mysterious throughout most of the film.
The film is essentially a love triangle between these three women, though there isn’t a whole lot of actual love involved and the same-sex love isn’t made the point. They are all vying for power and status, instead of each other’s affection, which becomes the forefront of the film. The double-crossing, lying, and manipulating is what drives these women, and it gives them legitimate agency, as they hold more power than any of the men in the film.
This is The Favourite’s biggest point – that women don’t need men. They can function, and function well, without them. This is a film that showcases three strong women, and it does it with aplomb.