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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: Stone, Weisz and Colman shine in "The Favourite"

Dec 15, 2018 01:05AM ● By Dan Metcalf

Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in The Favourite - © 2018 Fox Searchlight.

The Favourite (Fox Searchlight)

Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, and language. 

Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss, James Smith, Jenny Rainsford.

Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara.

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.



“Period” films can be tedious at times, with complex narratives hidden beneath grand costumes and incredible scenery. Yorgos Lanthimos’ new film The Favourite is anything but tedious, offering up a sharp-witted tale of love, betrayal, and competition set in the early 1700s.

Emma Stone plays Abigail, a young woman of little stature and distant cousin to Sarah (Rachel Weisz), Duchess of Marlborough, who is also Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) closest confidant. Abigail seeks employment in the queen’s court, hoping to cash in on her kin’s stature. Sarah, it turns out is not very accommodating and assigns Abigail to scullery maid service. Stricken with many ailments, the queen demands a lot of Sarah, including some unpleasant health care chores and a few sexual services. Abigail’s ambition leads her to take drastic measures to get near the queen and she seizes an opportunity to use her knowledge of herbal remedies to ease Anne’s pain from a nasty skin rash. The queen takes an immediate liking to Abigail and assigns her to her personal assistant, much to the displeasure of Sarah, who does all she can to intimidate her cousin. Meanwhile, England’s participation in an ongoing war with France begins to limit the country’s finances and cause divisions among the ruling class. One such noble is Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford (Nicholas Hoult), who uses the dispute between Sarah and Abigail for his own purposes, primary of which is to end the war. As Abigail’s stature increases, Sarah’s diminishes, giving Harley the window of opportunity he needs to gain control of the country’s military and financial resources. When given a chance to grab more power, Abigail abandons all scruples and ruins Sarah, leaving her the sole responsibility of caring for all the queen’s unstable desires, including all her sexual needs and constant demand for validation. Did Abigail really win?

The Favourite is a naughty pleasure of a film with a sharp-witted script full of ribaldry. The trio of women at the center of the story is equally well-played by Stone, Colman, and Weisz, who complement each other with abundant chemistry. If there’s one standout among the three women, it’s Colman, who effectively portrays Queen Anne as a ridiculous, yet tragic figure on the verge of instability at times, and suddenly harsh at others.

Yorgos Lanthimos’ expert direction and talent for exploiting the more absurd aspects of life among the court elites makes The Favourite one of the best films of 2018 and a real triumph for the main cast.

The Favourite Trailer