The Favourite

The Favourite2

By Joanna Langfield

As compelling as it is to watch, this film is also a reminder that sometimes you can respect the hell out of something and still be miserable as hell watching it.

I know I am in the minority here. Exquisitely staged and gamely acted, this razor sharp story of the 18th Century Queen Anne and two of her closest ladies has drawn rapt reviews. And yes, director Giorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) has delivered a quickly paced, acutely nasty piece of work. For me, that’s where the problem is.

There have been movies, books, and theater pieces galore about horrible women being horrible to one another. The best of those, say, “Mean Girls” or even “All About Eve” do it with a purpose and a sympathetic character or two we can root for. Here, although each of the three main female characters is given a moment or so of kind of compassion, all of them are manipulative and cruel. And even they don’t seem to be enjoying it.

The central character, Queen Anne, played by a highly theatrical Olivia Coleman, is in over her head. England is at war with France; the politicians are pushing her to make decisions while she’d rather play with her pet rabbits. Seems that it’s really Lady Sarah, a pretty divine Rachel Weisz, who is running both the show and the Queen. And then a new girl shows up, a down on her luck Emma Stone, who, we discover may have more one her mind than just securing servitude.

Opening in a time when civil discourse has plummeted to decidedly uncivil lows, when viewers are captivated by Real Housewives and contestants who know how to play a brutal game, there will certainly be those who get off watching these three women destroy one another. As much as I may admire the surroundings, I am not one of them.