Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, Emma Stone

Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for BFI

Movie review: Femme-centric 'The Favourite' reigns with infatuating, nimble cast

December 07, 2018 - 6:15 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — "The Favourite" takes costume dramas to a whole other level.

The already award-winning, female-led film folds in conflicting egos, lust and greed into affairs of state and politics during Queen Anne's reign in early 18th-century England.

The period piece comes from Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, who gave us the decidedly offbeat "The Lobster" in 2016.

This tragicomic portrait of power stars Olivia Colman, who portrays the perverse and demanding Anne. Rachel Weisz plays her top adviser, the efficient and maybe a little paranoid Sarah Jennings Churchill — of whom Winston Churchill is a descendant of — while Emma Stone plays Abigail, Sarah's manipulative and seductive cousin, who is so determined and effective in getting what she wants that she nearly turns the film into an "All About Abigail." 

Originally titled "Balance of Power," "The Favourite" boils down, narratively, to a sexually charged competition for the queen's approval and affection.

And the male characters are mere window dressing, if that.

What we're held by is the interaction — much of it surreal or absurdist — among the three fascinating women.

In terms of power — and to paraphrase Mel Brooks — it's good to be the queen. However, Anne is severely gout-afflicted, and she keeps 17 bunnies in her bedroom, which represent all the children she has lost, most to miscarriages or stillborn births.

Gender politics are on the minds of screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara — well, make that the back of their minds. Their job is to bring to life the trio of principals, and that they do vividly and humorously and often outrageously.

As for the official goings-on, well, let's keep it simple: Some of it actually happened and some of it didn't; nobody's keeping score. But the behavior of this trio could and would change the course of history.

Colman is ferocious; Weisz is bitter; Stone is childlike; each of them touching in their own rite.  They're passionate, indelicate, and spellbinding, while also being nasty, knowing and nimble.

And all three actresses are brilliant, with Colman in the lead and Weisz and Stone in support. Don't be surprised if at least one of them gets to hear her name read out on Oscar-nomination morning.

As for us, we'll rule 3½ stars out of 4. Extravagantly eccentric and femme-centric, "The Favourite" is fabulous.