THE FAVOURITE (15)
D: Yorgos Lanthimos
Fox Searchlight/Element/Arcana/Film 4/Scarlet/Waypoint (Ed Guiney, Ceci Dempsey, Lee Magiday & Yorgos Lanthimos)
UK/USA/Ireland 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 🇮🇪 2018
W: Deborah Davis & Tony McNamara
DP: Robbie Ryan
Ed: Yorgos Mavropidis
PD: Fiona Crombie
Cos: Sandy Powell
Olivia Colman (Queen Anne), Emma Stone (Abigail Hill), Rachel Weisz(Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough), Nicholas Hoult (Earl Robert Harley), Joe Alwyn (Samuel Masham), Mark Gatiss (John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough)
Political games and cat fights in the court of Queen Anne are afoot in this bawdy 18th Century romp from director Yorgos Lanthimos, working off a screenplay that had been lying dormant for 20 years before getting a fresh reworking and a brand new title (the original was "The Balance Of Power")
The trio of performances see Olivia Colman play the ailing Queen Anne, suffering from poor health at the tail end of her reign, while Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone play a pair of chambermaids who vie for her attention as her main confidant. Rachel Weisz as a duchess of high standing who has the Queen's ear in matters of politics, while Emma Stone's Abigail Hill comes from a far poorer background, but ends up being equally manipulative.
Inspired by true characters and events, artistic licence is made to give the story a rather contemporary feel, mostly to serve the acerbic dialogue and spiteful humour, both of which are hilarious.
The production, filmed at Hatfield House and Hampton Court Palace, capture the period perfectly, helped by Robbie Ryan's fisheye cinematography which captures the sprawling halls of royalty with a sense of panorama. The only thing which didn't work for me was the eerie music, which seemed intrusive more than it did immersive.
The trio of performances at the focal point of the story are all excellent, and though it's Olivia Colman who is being pushed as the lead for the sake of awards recognition, any and all of three of the ladies could be considered the lead. Those expecting a more elegant costume drama (like Downton Abbey) may be perturbed by the humour, but those who like their humour a little dark will likely find it quite hilarious.