The Favourite stars Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz and was directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Set during the 18th century, it tells the story of Queen Anne, played by Olivia Colman, and her relationships with a rivalrous pair of advisory cousins, played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone. The Favourite actually surprised me quite a bit. British costume dramas are absolutely not my thing. I’ve tried with countless films over the years, but they always bore the hell out of me with their stuffy pretention and dull stories. But, this film starred a number of actors I like and I try to watch as many Oscar films as I can. I anticipated this one being nominated, so I figured I might as well get it over with and caught it when it was in theaters.
I was not at all prepared for the dark humor that permeates this film. Sure, the trailer had looked mildly funny, but I’ve been duped before by clip choice and editing. But, not here. I would argue that this film could actually be considered more comedy than drama. The dialogue is snappy and witty and there are a number of moments of humorous absurdity. I think it’s this humor, combined with a fast pace and unconventional story, that sets The Favourite apart from other costume dramas. And although it’s thoroughly steeped in the time period, this movie is still recognizable and accessible to a modern audience.
Ultimately, The Favourite is about the relationships among three women and the rivalry inherent in those relationships. It explores the fickleness that comes with dealing with an individual of power and explores the toxicity often present in both friendship and love. I wasn’t expecting it, but there was a moment in this film that really hit home hard for me regarding emotional roles in relationships. There’s a point in the movie where the Queen is upset with Sarah and basically asks her why she should forgive her and choose her over Abigail when Abigail tells her the things she wants to hear. And Sarah responds ìBecause I will not lie. That is love.î And you know, I really connected with that character in the moment.
Because that’s how I feel, at least with my close relationships. And its hard cause that’s not something everybody wants or understands. And exactly that type of love-based truthfulness and refusal to just tell somebody what they want to hear has caused a lot of strife for me in the past, so that moment in the movie was a littleÖ unexpectedly emotionally jarring for me. The back and forth rivalrous jabs between Abigail and Sarah are entertaining to watch and it’s interesting to see how our opinions of characters are manipulated over the course of the film, mirroring the manipulation present in the story itself. Who’s using who? Of course, the answer to that question is constantly changing, which makes it tough to know whose side you’re even on.
Characters you’re initially sympathetic to may lose that sympathy and characters you dislike may gain your favorÖ or favour, But, one character will remain ever-brilliant and unblemished in your eyes: Horatio, the fastest duck in the city. Must the duck be here? Yes, yes he must. One note before we get into the pros and cons ñ I know I was being a bit facetious about it in the intro, but I have to say how much the title of this film irritates me. This definitely isn’t intended as a jab at any of my British viewers, but the whole ìouî thing just drives me absolutely insane.
Not cause I think it’s worse or wrong, but because ìouîs resulted in a lot of tedious work for me. When I was in grad school, I studied black bear denning ecology. And after my thesis, I wrote a scientific paper and got it published in Animal Behaviour, the leading journal forÖ well, animal behavior. Except, it wasn’t just Animal BehaviorÖ it was Animal Behaviour. Yup, they’re a UK-based journal and in order to get my paper accepted, I was required to, as I like to call it, Britify my paper. Do you know how many times the word ìbehaviorî appears in a paper about animal behavior? Suffice it to say, I’ve been thoroughly traumatized by the ìouî.
Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Number one on the pro side for me has got to be the tone. It strikes a great balance between the emotional core of the movie and the dark humor that permeates it. That comedy was so unexpected for me and elevated this film above other period costume dramas. In addition to the comedy, this movie didn’t shy away from a certain level of crassness that made it feel really accessible for a modern-day audience. The second pro here is the acting.
The supporting actors all did fine in their roles, but the truly noteworthy performances came from the powerhouse trio of Colman, Stone, and Weisz. Individually they were great, but together they were fantastic, really portraying the taxingly tumultuous relationships among the three main characters. On the con side, it’s actually a little hard to come up with anything substantive. I guess my biggest issue would be the weirdness. I know that’s a little vague, but when you see the movie you’ll know exactly what I mean. There are very odd and sometimes seemingly random moments inserted throughout the movie.
A lot of the time, they provide some moments of strange levity, but others ñ like the final shot of the film ñ are just uncomfortably ambiguous. And I gotta say, I really disliked the fish-eye lens used periodically throughout the film. My other con is minor and story-based. I found much of the story not revolving around the three leads to be a bit dull: especially the war planning scenes. They obviously played a role in determining some of the motivations of our three lead characters, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was just waiting around for more of the core three during those scenes.
Before I give you my rating and recommendations, I want to remind you that if you’re interested in buying The Favourite or any of the films I mentioned today, I do have affiliate links for all of them in the description below. I get a small commission from anything you buy using one of my links, so I’d really appreciate if you’d use them if you’re in the market for any of these movies. I’m gonna give The Favourite 3 out of 5 paws. I think this was a really well-made film and its definitely deserving of the recognition it’s gotten. And I did like it, but it’s just not the type of movie that really captures my interest or the type that I see myself returning to very frequently.
I would recommend The Favourite to people who like somewhat restrained dark comedies. If you find yourself liking the more obscure films that get nominated for Best PictureÖ you know, the ones that critics love, but general audiences have mixed opinions on cause a good chunk of them just don’t even know what to make of the movie, then you’ll probably like The Favourite. Even if costume dramas aren’t usually your thing, give this one a shot cause the dark humor might save it for you. If you liked The Favourite, I had a really hard time trying to come up with recommendations based on this one.
There are movies that this film reminded me of, but not any that I would recommend, especially based off enjoyment of this one. So, instead I want to start by turning to other movies starring the leads in this one. Not cause they’re necessarily similar plot or tone-wise, but because I thought they were good representations of certain small aspects of The Favourite. First, I would recommend Disobedience, also starring Rachel Weisz, for not only the obvious similarity with her character, but also for the restrained emotion she’s able to get across in both films.
I’d also recommend Easy A, starring Emma Stone, for its similarly snappy dialogue and smart sense of humor. And if you want another more recent costume drama that felt a bit more modern than its source material, you might want to check out Little Women. Alright, a couple questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen The Favourite? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: What’s your favorite period costume drama? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going.