‘The Favourite’ review: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz Make Ruthless Power Plays For Queen’s Affection

By Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Rooted in fact, “The Favourite” depicts a romantic triangle ruled by ambition.

Chicago Tribune

The benign flowering plant known as Queen Anne’s Lace closely resembles hemlock, which brings us straight away to the pleasurably nasty triumph “The Favourite.”

In this film, vaguely ridiculous extravagance masks court intrigues of a spiky, lethal variety. The result is a splendid black comedy that marks a stylistic leap for its director. Second only, perhaps, to the upcoming “Roma,” it’s a reminder of how the movies can imagine a highly specific yet deeply idiosyncratic vision of the past.

“The Favourite” would be worth seeing if only for the subtle varieties of cutting rejoinder it offers its central trio of performers: Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz and, as Queen Anne, early 18th century ruler of England, Ireland and Scotland, the heartbreakingly funny Olivia Colman.

The director is Greek native Yorgos Lanthimos, whose taste for corrosive societal disintegration came to global attention with “Dogtooth” and “The Lobster,” among others.

Rooted in fact, “The Favourite” depicts a romantic triangle ruled by ambition. In 1705, Queen Anne’s court wrestles with the question of how to finance a war with France.

Lady Sarah (Weisz), the Duchess of Marlborough, uses her wits, her body and the queen’s bed to coerce Anne into raising taxes on the citizenry in order to keep the off-screen battle going.

This is good news for Sarah’s warrior husband. Less good for Sarah: the unexpected arrival of her country cousin, Abigail (Stone), a noblewoman fallen on hard times. A dab hand with medicinal herbs, Abigail quickly rises above servant status to become the queen’s new favorite. Game on!

Emma Stone
Emma Stone plays a servant who quickly rises above servant status to become the queen’s new favorite.

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