The Favourite 2019 ****

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There’s a micro-genre of films which are about royalty/aristocrats, but are not biopics. Like Dangerous Liaisons/Cruel Intentions, or Ridicule, they’re about the wit and cruelty of the extreme upper classes, and The Favourite is a prime example. Not many know much about the reign of Queen Anne, so there’s lots of fun in this story about how favourite Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) fights for her place in the pecking order when Abigail (Emma Stone ) joins the royal household. Indulgence and decadence is very much the order of the day, with duck races and general harlotry going on, but the key to the corruption is Queen Anne herself (the wonderful Olivia Coleman) who is suffering from all kinds of physical maladies and easily influenced by those around her. Sarah and Abigail are in an All About Eve festival of bitchiness, and there’s a very fresh and witty script to keep things moving ; ‘Did you come here to rape me or seduce me? Abigail asks an aspiring seducer who arrives in her bedroom. ‘I am a gentleman!’ he replies . “So, rape it is, then.,,,’ is her caustic reply. This isn’t your prestige history lesson, but a smart, bawdy comedy, with lots of nasty behavior and three great female performances. Director Yorgos Lanthimos returns to the black comedy of The Lobster with real success here, and this was an awards front-runner for a reason.

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