Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.
If Anne (Olivia Colman), the queen, gets what she wants (sex), she would, in return, offer the luxury. Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Masham (Emma Stone) know this characteristic nature of Anne and bestow this with utmost profuseness. Sarah and Abigail take turns to woo Anne and try to become the ‘favourite’ of the queen (hence, the title). In all its weirdness and the hilarity that it, thus, produces, Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite is a delightful black comedy movie that attains a semblance of normalcy towards the end that is both insightful and thought-provoking.
The Favourite is one of the finest examples of how black comedy films should be written. There is every bit of seriousness in it and yet we find it strange and extremely funny. In one of the early scenes, Anne joyously tells Sarah that the war against France is over. Sarah, in response, tells with condescension that the war is not over and it must continue as Anne replies, “oh!”. This was the first strange and hilarious instance when I laughed out loud. Abigail, in a scene, explains that, while she was travelling in a carriage, a “man was pulling his (penis)” and the actual image flashes in her eyes as we burst into laughter. As she gets down from the carriage, unable to resist, that man grabs her butt and she falls in the mud (If I had seen a complete stranger behaving in such indecent manner, I would have felt an immense amount of indignation growing inside me). Then, in response to Abigail’s request for a job, Sarah rudely replies that she can be a “monster for the children to play with” and Abigail excitedly roars mimicking a lion. In another humorous instance, Abigail, while working as a maid, is asked by an inimical lady to “scrub the floor until Mrs. Meg (Jennifer White) can see her toothless, fat face in it”. Abigail narrates a sad turn of events to Sarah but explains in a way that throws us into uproarious laughter (Abigail says that when she was 15, her father lost her in a card game to which Sarah replies, “you are not serious”. Abigail continues saying that “the debt was to a balloon-shaped German man with a thin cock”). Sarah, in a scene, teaches how to shoot the birds to Abigail. And when Abigail misses her aim, Sarah mocks her by saying that she is really doing damage to the sky. When Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn) enters the room of Abigail, she casually asks him if he has come to seduce her or rape her. It was both droll and whimsical when Harley (Nicholas Hoult) is sitting on a sofa and is annoyed by the presence of duck beside him as he asks, “Must the duck be here?”.
I was impressed by the performances of Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in particular as they portrayed the characters of Sarah and Abigail with such perfection. Written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the narrative eschews strangeness and humour towards the end and shifts the focus towards who-becomes-the-favourite-of-queen. Abigail, with all her prudence, manages to give a fierce competition which causes consternation to Sarah. Anne, even, denudes Sarah of her privileges. The moment of realisation strikes when Abigail, who thinks to have succeeded Sarah as the favourite, has to kneel down and rub the legs of Anne. In spite of it being a historical period drama, the movie seems so relevant in the present world where the greed for ‘more’ has always resulted in a disastrous way as we fail to realise that ‘less is more’.