By Kaylee Brewster
While “The Favourite” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the film is a treat is in its electrifying performances.
In early 18th-century England, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) sits on the throne and is unwell physically and mentally. Her friend, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), does most of the running of the country while Queen Anne uses the palace as a playhouse, allowing members of parliament hold duck races and other frivolous activities.
The balance of the palace, the country and Queen Anne’s affection is disrupted when Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives as a servant. Abigail quickly endears herself to the queen, inciting jealousy from Lady Sarah. So begins the battle to be “the favorite” of Queen Anne.
It’s easy to see why Colman, Weisz and Stone all received Oscar nominations for acting in this film. Their performances are truly captivating.
Lady Sarah is the puppet master. She’s been at Queen Anne’s side for a long time. She’s in charge of the story’s political elements. She knows what the queen wants and is brutally honest with her, but it comes out of love. But Weisz gives the cold, calculating Lady Sarah a heart, otherwise the character would be merely a villain.
Abigail is a giant question mark. Does she seek favor with the queen for her own means or does she truly want to help her? Stone takes great care to let the audience know what Abigail is thinking only when they need to. As the plot revolves around the characters’ actions and intentions, Stone’s reserved approach adds a psychological element for the audience to figure out.
Caught in the middle between these two women is the queen. Colman’s Queen Anne is lonely, depressed and in need of a friend, making her a target for manipulation. She can be enjoying herself one minute and then having a sobbing breakdown the next. It would be easy for a lesser actress to over dramatize her outbursts, but Colman gives authenticity to her emotions.
While the film is a drama, there are plenty of moments of comedy, and the dialogue is dripping with sarcasm and wit — like a Jane Austen film with cursing and sexual innuendo. Audiences are often jolted by sudden endings to scenes that don’t feel like they’re finished, along with scenes that don’t immediately fit into the story.
Director Yorgos Lanthimos often uses a “fisheye” camera lens for a round, bubbled panoramic effect. It’s an example of ways the director keeps the audience off balance, whether they like it — or understand it — or not.
“The Favourite” is its own genre of film: based in history with some drama, a dash of comedy, a sprinkle of political theater, a pinch of psychological torment and a little avante-garde. You’ll either love it or you’ll scratch your head wondering “what did I just watch?” However, you can’t deny the mesmerizing performances, and neither should the Oscars. When it comes time to hand out the trophies, “The Favourite” should not be ignored.