The Favourite (2018) 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

This black comedy focuses on a historical power struggle between two women over who will control the queen… and her policies.
 
Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) has everything she wants. An ambitious, diplomatic husband (Mark Gatiss), a court at her every whim, and total control over the throne. The emotional, somewhat dimwitted Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) has total trust in her best friend. Sarah is behind the war, decides how the court spends its treasury, and dictating policies while Anne daydreams, suffers from horrific gout, and mourns her seventeen lost children through keeping a bunny to represent each one.
 
But one day, everything changes. Sarah’s ambitious cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) comes to court—drenched in crap-laden-mud and hopeful for a position. Sarah tosses her into the kitchen, but when Abigail learns of the queen’s pains, a quick trip into the wood for the right herbs brings her to the queen’s attention. She soon beguiles Anne. Abigail is everything Sarah is not. She flatters and gives compliments; she shows genuine compassion, and is a supportive friend, unlike the acid-tongued Sarah.
 
But Sarah has a stronger hold over the queen than Abigail first envisioned… and it requires desperate, unladylike actions to wrestle the throne from her sharp fingernails.
 
This feels like two movies mashed together. One is funny, charming, and likable, the other is mean-spirited and tawdry. I found myself wishing at times the director had stuck with the former, right before a latter scene would turn up and make me feel disgusted. I found a lot of it tasteless. Why would I need to see a masturbating man on a coach? Yuck. That’s not humor. Why are the men of the court pelting a fat, naked man with fruit? Who is he, why is he doing that, and what has it to do with the plot? And it’s mean-spirited, with no likable characters except poor Anne, who is a dismal caricature of the real Queen Anne. The basic premise of the film is accurate (two women fighting over who controls the queen) but the details, especially about how they do it, are false. There is no evidence either woman had a lesbian relationship with Anne, who was a devout Protestant and a known “prude.” Sarah in her letters shows a “disgust of unnatural sexual practices,” and accused Abigail of doing “perverse things” with the queen, as a means to discredit her. I think it could have worked just as well, without turning their manipulations into cheap sexual tactics.

This movie has countless award nominations. The costuming is excellent. Sandy Powell has done a lot on a tiny budget and going for the full-on outrageous costumes of the time. The acting is tremendous. Colman ranges from pathetic to moving to terrifying in two hours while Weisz and Stone scheme against one another with tremendous glee. But… other things are odd, like the score which has a lovely undertone often ruined by weirdness. And the ending, which is a silent shot that lasts an eternity. I fully understand the message the director was giving us (that for all her schemes, the victor is still a mistreated servant), but the pacing at times felt off (slow). It may rack up some awards, but I have no interest in ever seeing it again.

Sexual Content:
Extreme. Women kiss passionately. One rolls another onto the bed. A woman enters another woman's room in a sheer nightgown and massages her legs; it's implied she stimulates the woman with her hand (who reacts with pleasure). A third woman finds them in bed together, one of them naked to the waist. A man masturbates on a public coach. References to rape in a joking manner. A man and a woman scuffle together. When he complains on their wedding night she is not attending to him, she masturbates him with her hand while talking about something else. We see a random couple having sex against a tree; then a woman wakes up in a brothel, with another random couple having sex in the background; whores flash their butts at a man in the hall. An extended scene has a naked man being pelted with fruit; his hand covers his privates (barely) until the end, when he slips and falls. Sexual references, comments, etc. Lots of cleavage-bearing gowns.
 
Language:
A dozen f-words. "C*nt" is often used as an insult and in a sexual manner. General profanities. Uses of "sh*t" and "ass."
 
Violence:
Slapstick scenes of men and women struggling, men shoving women around (one pinches Abigail's butt when she leaves the public coach, causing her to fall into the mud); people shoot at birds, one is hit and spatters a woman's face with blood. After being poisoned, a person falls from their horse -- their foot catches in the stirrup, and the animal drags them for miles. They return with a grotesque scar. Servants are beaten and slapped. A woman has books thrown at her; she then hits herself repeatedly in the face with a book to manipulate someone into empathy for her injuries. A woman presses her foot down hard on a bunny to make it squeal, but it's okay after she pulls up her foot.

Other:
Historical inaccuracies. Women vomit three times.