Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Favourite


Her majesty Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) heavily relies on a select group of people to run her kingdom. One of them is her trusted confidante Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the duchess of Marlboro and her childhood friend. The two share a bond that goes beyond platonic, satisfying one another in ways that would be deemed scandalous in the time period they are in. Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) was once a lady but has since fallen into rough times due to her irresponsible father’s gambling ways. She seeks the assistance of her cousin Sarah to be employed in the royal kitchen. Her being street smart impresses both duchess and queen. Soon enough, she is on her way up the social ladder, gaining the monarch’s attention and spiting her cousin who is slowly falling from grace. In this game of politics and wit, who will end up as the favorite?

Period dramas tend to be full of politics and war scenes. The Favourite is not devoid of such, but much of the action takes place within the walls of the palace. The dialogues are full of talk of war, but we never get to see the battlefield outside Queen Anne’s bedroom. Instead, the narrative focuses more on the literal and figurative ménage-à-trois these three women are entangled in, highlighting the perks and flaws of humanity in the process.

As with most period films, though, the production design is spectacular as always. The eye-popping opulence grabs your attention from scene to scene. The musical score keeps up by exuding a political thriller kind of vibe when needed be; royally mundane when necessary. Many lines are quotable although some tend to be borderline absurd yet not as otherworldly compared to Lanthimos‘ other works.

It’s also nice to witness the story of another female royal who is neither of the two Elizabeths. There are several of them in the long history of the British isles but it’s always those two who are clear favorites. Colman will be portraying Elizabeth II in the third season of The Crown, so maybe there is no escaping the Elizabeths after all. At least, we get to see how versatile she is as an actress.

Colman migh have raised some eyebrows with her upset win over long overdue Glenn Close at the Oscars, but her performance as Queen Anne well merits an acting award. Although the character’s exposure becomes less and less as her two favorites play their game of political chess, her presence alone is commanding enough to remind you that she is indeed the star of the show. If still unconvinced, you only have to see her flawless change of facial expression in that ball scene where Sarah dances with someone. The plethora of different emotions in her eyes is already a master class in acting.

Weisz and Stone form a formidable duo worth all the acting accolades. One wouldn’t have shined bright without the other. It was clearly a team effort. The only caveat in this setup is the vote splitting that occurs come awards season. Since both already have an Academy Award statuette, the nomination is already the win. Their undeniable onscreen rapport with Colman eventually bolstered the latter’s performance, making it all the more noteworthy.

Historical accuracy is always an issue in stories like this. While a book will always be a better alternative for a quick history refresher, film will always tend to appeal to emotions, not facts. The Favourite does a good job in this regard, humanizing characters that are most likely to be out of reach for us mere mortals. It’s that accessibility that paves way for empathy, making you realize that regardless who or what you are in life, nobody is exempted from the usual quirks hounding our humanity.

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