Whether you attribute it to the #metoo movement or to the growing demand for fairer involvement by women in the entertainment industry or whether it would have happened regardless: You can use The Favourite as an example of a great movie featuring powerhouse performances from three excellent women.
Emma Stone, Olivia Coleman and Rachel Weisz are fantastic throughout and bring to life a story about love, power and betrayal that will shock, intrigue and best of all make you laugh. As for the Bechdel test, this movie passes with flying colours. In fact, it doesn’t rely upon a single man to hold together the story. This is about the three central women and they hold the film ably.
Olivia Coleman is Queen Anne, a fairly unhinged royal who is leaving the running of the country to her right hand woman and the politicians. Coleman is the star of the movie, managing to balance and tread the fine line between complete farce and out-right comedy for something much more dramatic. Queen Anne is a complicated figure and her hysteria has deeper meanings and reasons, which this movie explores subtly rather than just playing her off as a crazy queen.
It leaves Rachel Weisz’s Lady Sarah to pretty much run the royal household, being the initial “favourite” of the Queen. Weisz relishes the hard, cold and brutally dismissive role and she disappears into it well. At first a character you will dislike, the plot manages to help you find sympathy as she begins to contend with an interloper who has found a way of her own into the favouritism of Queen Anne.
This is where Emma Stone’s Abigail enters. At first seemingly out-of-depth and out-of-place, through minor revelations you realise she is a person to watch and not to underestimate. Stone manages to slowly transform as the movie rolls along and goes from the naive, young handmaiden to something much more calculated. The flip of the two “favourites” as they fight for the place at the side of Queen Anne is done masterfully and subtly.
That rivalry and their political manoeuvring is the best aspect of the movie. Manipulation of Queen Anne, the politicians and each other makes for a compelling game of cat and mouse, with the roles reversing from scene to scene. The movie manages to flip your allegiances with each new moment and all three actresses clearly revel in the roles, both when being funny but also when being dramatic and there are very well-staged, darker undertones to the movie too.
Overall, The Favourite is a great, female-led movie which brings an effective mix of comedy and dark drama. The rivalry between Stone and Weisz is played perfectly, with great unexpected moments, but it is Olivia Coleman who manages to steal the movie with a larger than life but finely balanced portrayal of Queen Anne.
Rating – 4
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