Most period pieces attempt to depict the life of aristocrats with grace and aplomb. Royalty is regal; noblemen are noble – they’re the pinnacle of mankind. However, once in a while a story comes along that depicts the aristocracy as they almost certainly were.
These people were swimming in excess and power, which creates a word of absolute absurdity.
“The Favourite,” directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, takes place in 18th century England while the country is at war with France. Though being at war doesn’t prevent Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) from doting upon her close friend, and the real political operator at court, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz).
The queen at one point gifts her with her own personal castle despite the country losing money to the war. Everything is perfect for Lady Sarah until her cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) comes to town looking for a job.
The Queen takes a shine to Abigail, threatening Lady Sarah’s position within the court. That’s when the battle begins to become the queen’s favourite. Call it “Game of the Seat Besides the Throne” if you will.
The movie is wickedly funny. The politician’s bicker, using the war effort to usurp power from the other party. The court doesn’t care about the war, and they care about the poor even less. They’re too because they’re too busy performing ostentatious dances, admonishing the help or racing ducks. The queen, meanwhile, sits in her lavish bed chamber eating and complaining day and night. These people weren’t noblemen. They were idiots who were so far removed from the common man they couldn’t even imagine their plight.
The script is razor sharp. As much a satire of yesterday’s leaders as todays. Watching Weisz and Stone try to outsmart each other for Colman’s affections is magnificent. The three women are revelations with their respective roles. The score, the script, the performances and directing all come together for a recipe that turns out just right. One of the best films of the year.