The Best Films of the Decade: #38. The Favourite (2018)

| December 4, 2019
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is BFOTD-Banner.jpg

In just 27 days, the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to count down the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

I typically approach period pieces with an heir of trepidation, particularly when they involve English history.  I don’t know, there’s something often stiff and uninvolving about the court of intrigue that takes place behind the throne of England.  There have been good ones.  I loved Elizabeth and The Queen and, yes, I loved The King’s Speech.  But for the most part, I don’t seek them out.

That’s why Yorgos Lanthamos’ The Favorite was such a delightful surprise.  It is very engaging, recounting a largely fictionalized story of 18th century England’s Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), a relatively minor figure of English history, who is depicted as a woman of frail health and foul temper and who counts on her companion (and secret lover) Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) to run the business of the country.  Sarah rules with an iron will, but that will is challenged by the sudden appearance of a good-natured scullery maid named Abigail (Emma Stone) who endears herself to the queen and threatens to possibly return her majesty to good health.

As with Dangerous Liaisons, the participants plays power games with one another, but the story is more than it seems.  Lanthimos’ films are always about more than one thing and always ebb toward domestic disconnection of people living under the same roof.  He uses his set, an effectively dingy recreation of Queen Anne’s court as a playground for a chess match of power and influence (note the way that the floors resemble a chess board).  This is one of the best films about England’s Royal family even if it is mostly made up.

Again, I do not have much affinity for films about Royalty – they’re usually just a fancy dress rendering of whose-screwing-who –  but Lanthimos makes this story accessible without laying the personal battle as audience pleasing patter.  The basic palette of the film would seem featherweight in the hands of a lesser writers but Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara piece together a story that reveals serious themes about the nature and difficulties of womanhood not only in the 18th century but nested in issues still in place in the 21st century.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
Filed in: Uncategorized