“What the heck did I just watch?”
That was my initial thought that came to mind after seeing The Favourite. I’ll do my best to explain it, here.
Yorgos Lanthimos’ film takes us to 18th century England, where Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) occupies the throne. Her confidant Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) remains by her side practically 24 hours a day. But, when Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, all of that changes and a war commences for the Queen’s affection. Abigail and her family used to be at or near the top aristocratic society, but hard times befell the family, reducing Abigail to a servant. Determined to return to her aristocratical roots, Abigail will stop at nothing to win the Queen’s heart.
The Favourite was one of the more peculiar films I’ve seen, ranking up there with Phantom Thread. It was a raunchy, darkly comedic period drama that kept my attention for almost the entire runtime. I say “almost”because there were a few scenes that seemed to drag on and on.
Acting performances were astounding, particularly with our three leading ladies: Colman, Weisz, and Stone. Even Nicholas Hoult, who’s no stranger to a good performance, was remarkable as Harley. Costumes and set design were absolutely exquisite as well.
The part of the film that truly made me think was the ending. Now, if you’re familiar with Lathimos’ films, this is nothing new but, thanks to Haleigh Foutch of Collider, I have a better understanding of the ending. We find an ailing Queen Anne lying in bed with Abigail sitting not too far away. Abigail “won” the war of affection against Sarah, who has been expunged from the residence. The Queen is, rather blatantly, a troubled soul as she keeps 17 rabbits to represent the 17 failed pregnancies she’s had.
One of these rabbits happens upon Abigail who, in a show of dominance, places her foot on it. The rabbit squeals in agony which awakens the Queen, who then falls out of bed. Abigail runs to her and the Queen orders her to rub her legs whilst she stands, the screen gradually becoming engulfed with images of rabbits. As Foutch explains, the rubbing of the Queen’s legs was once an erotic, pleasureful act earlier in the film, but it has now totally changed as the Queen expresses dominance over Abigail. Lathimos, here, signifies to his audience that Abigail really didn’t “win” a thing. In fact, her dirty work (we see her poison Sarah at one point) got her right back to where she was at the beginning of the film.
The Queen and Sarah do not fair much better as Foutch concludes the ending finds each of our three ladies in their “own personal hell” – the Queen in failing health and pain over her lost children and no heir to her throne and Sarah exiled from the Queen’s side.
There’s no doubt that The Favourite was one of the more peculiar films I’ve ever seen but, for some reason, I liked it. The performances were brilliant in every way. The writing clever and witty. Combined with a better idea of what Lathimos was going for with his ending, and I’m sold. If you can see the film, I’d definitely recommend it.
My Grade: A