The performance everybody will be soon talking about is Olivia Colman’s royal turn in the entrancing new drama, “The Favourite.” (It takes place in Britain, so we’ll let them have their U.)
Colman plays Queen Anne, an 18th-century English monarch who was stupid, unkempt and prolifically diseased — suffering from gout and many other maladies. Not exactly Meghan Markle.
From there, director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) throws history in a blender.
As a girl, Anne developed a close friendship with Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) that grew when Anne’s husband, George, died. Later on, Sarah advised the queen on policy matters that she didn’t understand, and a few naughty historians have suggested the pair may have become lovers. Nobody knows for sure.
But Lanthimos and screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara have decided that the two were indeed shacking up in the royal bedchamber, which makes for a sizzling, maybe-kinda-true movie.
The duo’s dangerous liaison becomes war when Abigail (Emma Stone), a cousin of Sarah’s, arrives at court, her family having fallen in status because of the father’s misdeeds. Abigail knows that in order to become a lady again, she’s going to have to claw her way to the top and gain Anne’s favor. When it comes to clawing, Stone’s sweetly vicious Abigail is an expert tigress.
To succeed means kicking Sarah to the curb, which is no easy task. Weisz plays her as a tyrannical woman who won’t go quietly.
The film’s dialogue is a hilarious, canny blend of modern and classical speech. This more casual way of talking makes the film especially intimate and seductive. Particularly adept with its witty put-downs is Nicholas Hoult as a shifty earl.
The movie’s look — with its candlelit hallways, velvet fabrics and manicured gardens — is intoxicating.
So is Colman. As the temperamental queen, the actress hops between brashness, girlish giggles and crippling insecurity with the snap of a finger. She’s so mad, she’s good.
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