“A Brilliant Character Study”
The Favourite is one of the best films of the year because it’s not just one thing. It’s a hilarious comedy, an exotic period piece and a brilliant character study. In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are very much in fashion. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne while her lifelong friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s impulsive ways. When Sarah’s disgraced and penniless cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives seeking employment, Sarah takes her under her wing. When Abigail is instructed to tend to the Queen, she sees an opportunity to return to her wealthy lifestyle, sending her and Sarah into a dramatic rivalry competing for the Queen’s affections.
The films cinematography is one of the best I’ve seen this year as the angles are so uniquely captured and the close ups are exquisite. The film editing should serve as an example, taught in film schools everywhere. This film has the best credits I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen credits displayed in such a unique and beautiful fashion. Acting is always my favorite part to critique and I am delighted to report, all three women were simply perfect and have the Oscars just days within their reach. Earlier, I stated this film is a character study. It’s true, because these brilliant actresses made it so.
Olivia Colman is adorable, hilarious and heartbreaking as Anne. Except for Sarah, everyone she loved has died Having had 17 miscarriages and 17 pet rabbits, each one representing a child she lost. She depends on Sarah for everything and Sarah loves how much Anne needs her. It’s almost like Anne sees Sarah as her mother, as Anne is a soul that needs love and nurturing above all else. With a metaphor this extreme, you gather that Abigail is the new fun parent and Sarah is mean mommy. It boils the rivalry between them to shocking temperatures. It’s no secret that when you’re born into royalty, you are forced by society to grow up at once with no time in between. To me, this exemplifies that emotionally, Anne still feels like a child. It’s easier for her to connect with just one person her childlike mind can trust than with the other adults in her life and maybe this is why she acts so immature. She’ll cry, scream, whine and shove food into her mouth like a little piggy. Yet, she is the most adorable and lovable little brat I’ve ever seen on film. You just want to wrap her up in a blanket, give her a cup of hot chocolate, kiss her on the forehead and assure her Majesty it’s all going to be ok.
Emma Stone’s Abigail is very complex. She’s been raised as a lady so when that world was taken from her, she can’t act like anything less, as that’s the only life she’s ever known. She has a very modern personality and a very ladylike personality. In general, she does compartmentalize her worlds and she’s very good at that. It’s what’s allowed her to hold everything together for so long and in her new relationship with the Queen, she starts to cross an emotional boundary and she doesn’t compartmentalize to the same extent she does with other people. As selfish and manipulative as she is, there is this part of her that is very moved by the Queens growing affections for her and the sincerity of what she wants. Towards the end of the film, her two worlds collide forcing her to devise a way to come out on top. She can be as human as she wants to be but at the end of the day, she’s only thinking about number one: Herself. "I’m on my side, always" she says at one point. This is when you as a viewer conclude that she’s been playing games all along and deception is how as a woman you survive in this different world. Rachel Weisz’s Sarah is arguably the one with the most to lose, as her powerful personality could never be able to handle losing everything the way Abigail did. With her cousin’s arrival, everything starts to explode all around her, and she wants her out. "If you do not go, I will start kicking you and I will not stop," she says to Abigail. She says this so calmly and yet, you’re terrified of her because you know she’s not afraid to play dirty.
The theme of power is extremely important in a film like The Favourite because it’s what this society lives off of. The theme of power also divides the characters very evenly. Abigail is trying to rise to power and Sarah is struggling to maintain hers. I’ll conclude by saying that as intellectual as I found this film to be, it is a comedy above all else. It is truly hilarious, and I encourage anyone who's stressed out and overwhelmed by our current world to take 120 minutes at the theater for a jolly good laugh.