Clear favourite to win big

Olivia Col­man’s stun­ning per­for­mance one of many jewels in royal drama

The Herald Magazine - - Arts CINEMA - ALI­SON ROWAT

IT is the fag end of the year for most in­dus­tries, but in the movie busi­ness spring is about to be sprung. The awards sea­son proper be­gins on Jan­uary 7 with the Golden Globes, fol­lowed by Bafta nom­i­na­tions on Jan­uary 9 and Os­car short­lists on Jan­uary 22.

From then un­til the lights dim on the Academy Awards cer­e­mony at the end of Fe­bru­ary it is go­ing to be busy, busy, busy, with Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos’s aptly named pe­riod drama fig­ur­ing largely in the fuss. Boast­ing not one, not two, but three ter­rific per­for­mances from women, a de­li­ciously witty screen­play and a direc­tor so hot you could fry an egg on his CV, The Favourite looks set to be just that with awards ju­ries.

Whether it will find wider ac­claim is an­other mat­ter. It has taken 20 years for The Favourite to get from script to screen. The very fac­tors that make it stand out – the women leads, the ob­scure set­ting dur­ing the reign of Queen Anne, its direc­tor’s dar­ing – could count against it in an age that too of­ten plumps for the safe choice.

Here is hop­ing the reign­ing queen of Bri­tish drama, Olivia Col­man, has name power enough to draw au­di­ences in. The star of Broad­church, who is set to play Queen El­iz­a­beth in the new se­ries of The Crown, here takes the Queen Anne part.

Os­car-win­ning Emma Stone (La La Land, Bird­man) will be a sim­i­lar draw to Col­man among Amer­i­cans of a cer­tain age. Her per­for­mance as a for­mer lady re­duced to ser­vant sta­tus is sure to put her toe to toe with Rachel Weisz, play­ing Anne’s con­fi­dante, in many a best sup­port­ing ac­tress tus­sle.

As Lan­thi­mos be­gins his tale the 18th cen­tury is in its in­fancy. Eng­land is fight­ing the French, and MPs are bick­er­ing with each other. Pum­melled by ill health in gen­eral and a mar­tyr to gout, the Queen finds af­fairs of state drain­ing and is con­tent to be guided by her friend Lady Sarah (Weisz), the wife of Lord Marl­bor­ough. Two women join­ing forces against ranks of men, their re­la­tion­ship ex­tends far be­yond pol­i­tics.

As the clear favourite of the Queen, Lady Sarah guards her po­si­tion fiercely.

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