COURT INTRIGUE: Olivia Colman stars as Britain’s last Stuart monarch Queen Mary, while Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone

The Favourite

  • Comedy-drama; Cert R13, contains sexual material, offensive language and content that may disturb; 2hrs
  • Starring: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss, Jenny Rainsford and James Smith
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

ROYAL intrigue has never been so lively as in this unconventional period piece starring a trio of great actresses.

Set during the reign of Queen Anne, its biggest drawcard for me is that it stars the lovely Olivia Colman (Twenty Twelve) as the obese, gout-stricken and cantankerous queen.

This is not a kind portrayal of the last Stuart monarch, cleaving as it does to the vindictive memoir of her former close friend Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, written after the two had a falling out.

Previously considered a feeble invalid under the sway of advisors, many historians now consider her a strong and beneficient monarch, despite her ill health.
Whatever you believe, with Colman at her most batty, its impossible not to sympathise with the monarch.

Rachel Weisz (My Cousin Rachel) plays the Duchess of Marlborough, who effectively rules the country through her influence with the queen.

However, she is soon ursurped from her position of influence by her conniving cousin Abigail, played by Emma Stone.

Stone is in her best form for this role as a young lady who has fallen far and comes begging to the cousin she has never met for a position.

One of the duchesses most scandalous accusations about Anne is that she had a lesbian affair with Abigail, and this film supposes a love triangle between the three women.

As the relationship forms, the power struggle builds in intensity, helped along almost too much by an ominous, string-heavy soundtrack, which hovers just the right side of annoying.

Mark Gatiss and Nicholas Hoult don’t have to try too hard to be hilarious in the gastly Cavalier-style wigs popular at the time as the Duke of Marlborough and the Earl of Oxford, respectively.

Costumes are amazing, naturally, with Sandy Powell in charge (three Oscars for period dramas) and Hatfield House, in Hertfordshire makes a magnificent stand-in for Kensington Palace.

There is a war going on somewhere and much political manouvering between the Tory’s and the Whigs, but it is all simply background to the absurdities of court, the highlights of which are duck racing and the queen’s pet rabbits.

If you only see one period drama this year, I recommend that this be it.