REVIEW: Black Comedy ‘The Favourite’ Sends Up Aloof Royals


The Favourite movie still

Falling somewhere between Dangerous Liaisons and All About Eve, The Favourite is a simultaneously wicked and witty period comedy that unashamedly delights in cattiness.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s sumptuous production tells the story of 18th century English monarch Queen Anne (Olivia Colman).

Ostensibly a strong and capable monarch, Anne is actually frail and unstable and her lady-in-waiting, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) truly runs the Kingdom.

Unafraid to be brutally honest to Her Royal Highness, Sarah at one moment informs poor Anne that her self-applied make-up resembles that of a badger.

She is nonetheless the most loyal of Anne’s subjects, at least until one Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) arrives to unexpectedly throw a spanner into the works – or poison into a cup of tea, as the case may be.

As both Sarah and Queen Anne succumb to Abigail’s charm, The Favourite bites its way towards increasingly pitch-black story beats where each character bids to out-do each other in double-dealing and backstabbing.

The script – penned by Deborah Davis (marking her debut) and Tony McNamara (an Australian talent with episodes of Puberty Blues, Offspring and The Secret Life of Us to his name) – is often hilarious and the humour uniformly black.

Speaking of the ensemble, Colman, Weisz and Stone are all uniformly stellar, with each actress truly supporting the other.

Colman is emerging as the lead in all award categories at the moment. She shares equal screen time with Weisz and Stone, but without her Queen Anne there’d be no reason for Lady Sarah and Abigail’s wicked deeds.

Weisz is truly biting in a role that would be difficult for many other actresses to play without coming off as a villainous caricature.

Stone, whose likeability has always been seemed effortless, is the epitome of evil in a sly, cunning turn that only further proves her versatility as a performer.

Those who have seen Lanthimos’s previous efforts (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) will be well-versed in his unorthodox approach to storytelling.

The Favourite is his most accessible feature.

An unmatched world of political incorrectness and dark sexual desire, it is a refreshing dark comedy that’s as heartbreaking as it is hysterical.

The Favourite is in Australian cinemas now. Watch the trailer below: