The Favourite

The Favourite ★★★★

We went all out to see this, getting tickets in row B for seats three and four in a pretty small theater (Incheon CGV 1, the Arthouse), buying them days in advance and watching the day before I go to the hospital to remove a tumor. We were motivated and not sure whether we would get another chance to see it because not all of the Oscar nominees that play end up getting a full run.

It feels like it was worth the effort. I deliberately tried to avoid hearing anything about it before going in to make the most of the experience. I had no idea this was about Sara Jennings and Queen Anne, which I know about a little from the history of the first lord of Marlborough. I was unsure about the fidelity of a lot of this to history, though it is all pretty reasonable based on what I already knew and the writer claims it is based on an extensive investigation into primary sources so the main qualm is that the time frame is obviously compressed in order to fit the entire narrative into the movie in a natural way.

The movie is very interesting in being framed around the exercise of power where the men are in the picture mainly to serve as the playthings and pawns of the women in their exercise of power and the affairs of state.

Rachel Weisz as Sara Churchill is amazing and plausible in how you would imagine such an outspoken and frank woman balancing her life. Olivia Colman, who I know all-too-briefly from a handfull of roles (The Lobster, Murder on the Orient Express, maybe others), is amazing both exuding the natural and easy power of a monarch while being a very vulnerable human being limited by a declining body aggravated by bad habits. Emma Stone starts out in bad shape as Abigail Hill and gradually and naturally moves from the bottom to the top. looking the worse as she rises, while Sara looks better as she falls.

As the minor toys of the women in charge, Mark Gatiss does a dignified job as John Churchill while Nicholas Hoult is flamboyant and over the top as a very unattractive Lord Harley, which is quite a feat in itself. James Smith as Godolphin tries his best to bring Anne and Sara together in dignified way that is beyond his ability.

Yorgos Lanthimos shows his touch in an amazing way where this feels so like his other work even as he does history in a realistic manner. The details of the rabbits and how they are shown and gradually drawn to the center of the film tying everything together at the end. I really wish I could see him doing more historical drama because he was able to reveal an amazing drama and inner life of subjects who should feel far more distant from us.

I can easily see this going up on a second viewing, especially after I read more up on the history.

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