If you’ve never had the pleasure of seeing Olivia Colman (“Broadchurch,” “The Night Manager” TV mini series) perform before, there’s no better way to be introduced to her than through the new movie, “The Favourite.” In it, she’s part of a strong threesome that includes Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. Colman definitely holds her own, if not a bonafide scene stealer as a mentally unstable and physically frail Queen Anne during 18th century England. This is a dark comedy romp of a film by director Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Lobster”) revolving around two power hungry women vying for the queen’s favor. Lady Sarah, played by Weisz, has long been Anne’s closest advisor and friend, with benefits. She relishes in running the show as Anne defers to her on most weighty matters of rule. If any men in power want to sway Anne on political matters, they know they have to get through Sarah first, for better or worse.
Sarah’s position seems secure until her distant cousin, Abigail from the poor part of the family, comes knocking on the palace door begging for a job. Since Abigail seems lowly and weak, Sarah does not see her as a threat, and takes pity, assigning her a position as one of many servants. It doesn’t take long before Abigail sets her sights higher and weasels her way up the palace ladder, garnering the attention of the queen while Sarah is not looking. Once Sarah feels threatened, it is too late because Abigail has secured a higher role, possibly pushing her cousin completely out of the picture. As such, the palace wars ensue to the utter pleasure of the queen.
The film starts out innocent and slyly enough, but the pacing and cruelties ramp up with every twist and turn. You may come into the film with one set of expectations – a light, fun comedy – but halfway through, you’ll find yourself in a completely different movie. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. “The Favourite” is an excellent example of dark comedy done well. In some ways it’s fun and frivolous, in other ways it’s disturbing and sinister. The characters are an unexpected treat, and in the hands of Stone, Weisz and especially Colman, they excel. That, coupled with being a period piece, it’s a delightful twist on more traditional movies of its genre(s). For a unique cinematic experience, take a ride on the darker side.