Col­man to the fore in bawdy and bois­ter­ous pe­riod com­edy

THE FAVOURITE (15)

The Sligo Champion - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Courtly in­trigue pits two am­bi­tious women against each other for the af­fec­tions of an emo­tion­ally brit­tle queen in di­rec­tor Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos’s rol­lick­ing com­edy of de­li­ciously cruel in­ten­tions.

The Favourite is a bril­liantly bawdy and bois­ter­ous bat­tle of the rouged sexes, which tosses out pro­fan­i­ties with dev­as­tat­ing pre­ci­sion.

Words cut to the bone and an ex­pertly pol­ished script by Deb­o­rah Davis and Tony McNa­mara draws co­pi­ous blood with its vol­leys of rapid-fire barbs.

‘As it turns out, I am ca­pa­ble of much un­pleas­ant­ness,’ warns one viper in the queen’s nest.

‘If you do not go, I will start kick­ing you...and I will not stop,’ re­tal­i­ates her waspish op­po­nent with a Machi­avel­lian twin­kle in the eye.

Per­for­mances from the pre­dom­i­nantly British cast are an em­bar­rass­ment of riches that should be recog­nised with mul­ti­ple nom­i­na­tions at the Academy Awards in Fe­bru­ary.

Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone savour ev­ery bile-drenched syl­la­ble of their feud­ing harpies but it is Olivia Col­man, who shines bright­est as a petu­lant and volatile ruler stalked by tragedy, who is de­voted like a spoilt child to her 17 pet rab­bits.

The Nor­wich-born ac­tress con­fi­dently walks a tightrope be­tween wild ec­cen­tric­ity and de­spair in­clud­ing one un­for­get­table scene in the midst of the rau­cous ri­valry when her moody monarch re­veals the heart­break of los­ing mul­ti­ple chil­dren.

Lan­thi­mos shoots the dev­as­ta­tion in nat­u­ral light or by flick­er­ing can­dles, al­ter­nat­ing be­tween dis­con­cert­ing an­gles and tra­di­tional choco­late box fram­ing to keep us on our prover­bial toes along­side his much-abused char­ac­ters.

Queen Anne (Col­man) is re­moved from the machi­na­tions of gov­ern­ment, al­low­ing her se­cret lover Sarah Churchill ( Weisz) to ef­fec­tively con­trol 18th-cen­tury Bri­tain.

While Sarah has the monarch’s ear, Robert Har­ley (Ni­cholas Hoult) chal­lenges her au­thor­ity from his seat of power in West­min­ster, do­ing ev­ery­thing he can to pro­tect state taxes, which are fi­nanc­ing the war ef­fort against France.

At the height of this bat­tle of wits, Sarah’s lowly cousin Abi­gail Hill (Stone) ar­rives un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously at court and is ca­su­ally em­ployed as a scullery maid.

Abi­gail recog­nises that the key to bet­ter­ing her po­si­tion­ing lies in win­ning the queen’s favour and she as­sid­u­ously charms and be­guiles Anne.

Once Sarah dis­cov­ers her cousin’s un­der­hand plot, she re­tal­i­ates in ven­omous kind.

Abi­gail’s clue­less suitor Sa­muel Masham (Joe Al­wyn) is col­lat­eral dam­age as wor­thy ad­ver­saries trade bruis­ing ver­bal blows be­hind ta­pes­try-cov­ered doors.

Book­marked into eight deeply sat­is­fy­ing chap­ters, The Favourite de­lights and un­nerves, ac­com­pa­nied by a sound­track that boldly melds clas­si­cal mu­sic with a con­tem­po­rary elec­tronic score.

With its im­mac­u­late pe­riod de­tail, gor­geous cine­matog­ra­phy, sparkling per­for­mances and flaw­less di­rec­tion, Lan­thi­mos’s dark and twisted tragi­com­edy is a strong con­tender for the best film of a year that has barely be­gun.

God save the queru­lous queen and her cor­rupt court of di­a­bol­i­cal, schem­ing ad­mir­ers.

RAT­ING: 9.5/10

Rachel Weisz as Sarah Churchill and Olivia Col­man as Queen Anne in

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