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It’s an 18th century devilish tale with 21st century relatable themes.
Jealousy, same-sex love affairs and the tussle for power take the spotlight in director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite – your not-so-typical royal reimagining of the absurd-yet-captivating court of gout-riddled Queen Anne of England.
Rivalry between her lady in waiting (and private lover) Sarah (Rachel Weisz) and Sarah’s lowly cousin and newbie-to-court Abigail (Emma Stone) play out against the dazzling backdrop of Hertfordshire’s Hatfield House.
Oh, and the c-word is dropped more than half a dozen times which might make some clutch their pearls but let’s remember… the term dates back to circa 1230 and wasn’t deemed offensive ‘til the 1920s.
So, here is a detailed look at the racy-yet-fascinating moments that make this film such a good bloody watch …
Who run the world? Girls.
With Anne in power it was women doing the heavy lifting when it came to fierce political debate while wigged blokes stood around in their over-the-top makeup twiddling their thumbs.
“Your mascara is running if you’d like to go fix yourself. We can continue this later,” Sarah spits at Nicholas Hoult’s Tory leader Harley in a hilarious display of flipped gender roles of the period.
The hare-raising bunnies
Historically accurate or not, Queen Anne has 17 rabbits in her room. Each bunny a morbid representation of the childless queen’s lost babies. Some were “born as blood” she explains to her new maid Abigail while others were “born without breath” and some died during early childhood.
The conniving Abigail uses the tragic circumstance to improve her favour with Anne by loving ‘the children’ and throwing one of them a birthday party with cake. It is a symbolic scene in Abigail’s climb to replace her older cousin Sarah as the favourite (as Sarah despised the pets!)
When Sarah walks in on Abigail and the Queen
This is a tale of the sexually charged race for the queen’s affections so of course the sex scenes are intense. Queen Anne’s eccentric relationship with her companion Sarah started at childhood and when she took the throne in 1702 Anne gave her bestie all the fanciest titles at court: Mistress of the Robes, Keeper of the Privy Purse and Groom of the Stole. Sarah had a lot of power and wasn’t afraid to use it. But the scales tip when Abigail comes to court to serve Sarah and the queen and it’s not long before Abigail seduces the ailing monarch after an intense foot rub.
Sarah realises her position as the favourite is threatened after walking in on the post-romp display where Emma Stone bares her breasts for the first time in her career – an improv move decided by her. “I had the sheet up around me and as we were shooting it and we did a few takes, I said, ‘Can I please just be [naked]?’ Emma told The Hollywood Reporter. “I think it’s going to give Sarah something to look at when she sees that I’m not just under the sheet covered up.”
The witty one-liners play their own character in The Favourite. The term ‘c*#t-struck’ might make you giggle out loud while other phrases are more melancholic, reflecting the dark time it was for women, no matter what their status.
An example is when Abigail’s male companion and eventually her husband Masham visits her room: “Have you come to seduce me or rape me?” asks Abigail.
“I’m a gentleman,” Masham retorts.
“So rape then.” Abigail concludes.
Or when jealous Sarah tells Anne to send Abigail away and the Queen says “I don’t want to – I like it when she puts her tongue inside me.”
But Nicolas Hoult’s Harley wraps it up nicely when he tells Abigail: “You are in favour. But favour is a breeze that shifts direction all the time. Then in an instant you’re back sleeping with a bunch of scabrous whores wondering whose finger’s in your arse.”
The movie is brimming with one-liners like these and is a truly quirky film worth adding to your permanent collection. The Favourite is new to buy or rent on Blu-ray, DVD and digital now.
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