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Movie Review: The Favourite

[Editor’s Note: As the Oscars approach, our reviewers are taking a look at some of the films that were nominated.]

The Oscars season has arrived, and there is much talk about the nominations for Best Picture, and which contenders are deserving of this honor.  Among the list of equally qualified contenders, people are asking: is “The Favourite” worthy of winning Best Picture of 2018? On February 24th, 2019, we will find out; but for now, the question remains: will the Academy accept or reject this royal period drama directed by Yorgos Lanthimos?

The movie follows a crippled Queen Anne in early 18th century when England is at war with France. The lead, Queen Anne (portrayed by Olivia Colman), is accompanied by her close friend and longtime lover throughout the film, Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough, or
Lady Sarah; who in turn provides the Queen with medical attention for her wounded leg, as well as sexual favors. The Queen is portrayed as ill-tempered with a soft spot for women. The Favourite pushes boundaries by applying a modern twist to a royal tale. Emma Stone, who has
been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in her role as Abigail, is portrayed as a chambermaid in the lower class, with a charm that endears her to Queen Anne.

This comical risqué drama was best described in The Washington Post as “Funny, cynical, extravagant and rapturously vulgar;  The Favourite’ puts the lie to such well-heeled dramas as ‘The Crown.’” Emma Stone’s portrayal of a desperate yet empowered Abigail Hill complements the charming aspect of The Favourite. Abigail’s charm doesn’t go unacknowledged by Queen Anne– as we can see in a particular scene in which the Queen orders Abigail to her room for medical attention, which leads to their first sexual encounter. Following their encounter, Queen Anne appoints the former chambermaid to be Keeper of the Privy Purse, essentially replacing Lady Sarah in her
assistance to the Queen. This sparks a jealous rivalry between Sarah Churchill and Abigail Hill and in turn initiates a tumultuous dialogue between Lady Sarah and her love interest.

It’s unclear throughout the movie exactly what Abigail’s intentions are in terms of her relationship to the Queen; however, it is evident that Abigail fights relentlessly for what she thinks is right, due to her tumultuous upbringing. The Queen is filled with guilt regarding the
deaths of her 17 children, some unborn, some not; and Abigail is witness to all of these emotions, offering the queen emotional guidance at all times.  Queen Anne possesses 17 rabbits in remembrance of her lost children, a metaphor for all that she’s lost, and the burden she carries
with her. The queen becomes increasingly infatuated by Abigail’s presence and quick wits, prompting concern from Sarah Churchill about the state of her relationship to Queen Anne. Meanwhile, Abigail Hill and Lady Sarah engage in an unspoken contest for Queen Anne’s affection.

Throughout the film’s many plot twists, there is always the devastating tale of a lonely Queen Anne, as the characters repeatedly demonstrate their desire for  power and what they are willing to do (and who they are willing to use) in order to get it.  The Favourite applies a modern twist to an old tale, and it leaves viewers waiting on the edge of their seats for what will happen next.  For me, the complex story line is nothing short of Oscar-worthy. After viewing this film, sometimes laughing and sometimes crying, I can definitely recommend that you go see The Favourite.  And while I cannot predict whether it will win an Oscar,  it is worth noting that this film impressed many members of the Academy:  it earned 10 nominations, tying it with “Roma” for most nominations. The Favourite is a royal period drama, fueled by quick wit and intelligent transitions, and in my opinion, it deserves to win Best Picture of 2018.

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