A sexually charged, delightfully twisted three-way power struggle drives Yorgos Lanthimos’ bawdy period romp The Favourite. Set in early 18th-century England, it takes place in the royal court of a sickly, childishly temperamental Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), who we swiftly learn is dependent on her confidante Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Into the picture steps Sarah’s down-on-her-luck cousin Abigail (Emma Stone), who begins her life in the palace as a lowly maid. But on discovering that Sarah and Anne are embroiled in a secret romance, Abigail attempts to climb the social ladder by seducing the queen herself. The film is at times as self-consciously quirky as you’d expect from Lanthimos: in one amusingly anachronistic sequence, guests at a formal dance begin pulling off moves that would look more at home on RuPaul’s Drag Race. But beneath The Favourite’s frivolous surface lurks a sense of pathos, which comes to the fore once the queen realises she’s being manipulated by both of her lovers. All three central performances are stellar, but Colman’s is the showstopper, equal parts monstrous narcissism and heartbreaking vulnerability.
The Favourite | Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Ireland, UK, US 2018) with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone. Starts January 24.
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