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'The Favourite': A Beautiful, Thought-Provoking Film On The 'Quirkier Fringe Of Masterpiece Theater'

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Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman in "The Favourite" (2018).

Queen Anne reigned over England, Scotland and Ireland for 12 years. But not a great deal of attention, historical or otherwise, has been paid to her. Plagued by ill health throughout most of her life, Queen Anne had few significant matters of state accomplished during her time in power. Plus, what little that was written about her was not very flattering or objective.

The new film The Favourite is perhaps not the most flattering depiction of her either, but it certainly brings attention to her court. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite shows the behind-the-scenes politics and power play between Queen Anne, Lady Sarah Churchill and Sarah’s cousin Abigail Hill.


"I found it to be a very enjoyable and thought-provoking film at the same time. It's really a film about power relations, and nobody in this film comes across as being a particularly nice person," says film contributor and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express Dave Luhrssen

The Favourite has already secured over a dozen nominations for the Critic’s Choice Awards, and the momentum will likely continue into the Oscar season. Although the film is classified as a comedy, Luhrssen would disagree and calls this film a satire at its core.

"Restoration theater, if that's a model here, was often very bawdy and very provocative, so I think that if the director had that in mind he certainly succeeded in putting that across," says Luhrssen. "It's a beautiful movie to look at. It really contrasts the lives of people at the top versus lives of people at the bottom visually."

Director Yorgos Lanthimos' previous films include The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer — both darker movies that posed extreme questions of morality through its stories. Luhrssen says that while The Favourite certainly has Lantimos' style, it is certainly more appealing to a broader audience.

"I think it benefits him as a filmmaker as well to kind of step outside of his normal preoccupations, but yet at the same time you could say there is kind of a philosophical dimension to this film. It's not light entertainment, though it is very entertaining."

Luhrssen says Olivia Coleman's depiction of Queen Anne is "a masterful performance ... But the acting from all three principal women in the movie is superb. I think that they all deserve some consideration for nominations and maybe even victory depending on who they're contending with."

Overall, The Favourite is "a very interesting and beautiful film," according to Luhrssen, and he encourages people to see it. However, "it's definitely an adult R-rated film in the true sense of what it means to be an adult," he notes. But, "if you like great filmmaking, if you have any interest in the period or the role of women in history, go check it out," says Luhrssen.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
David Luhrssen is arts and entertainment editor of the Shepherd Express, co-founder of the Milwaukee International Film Festival and co-author of A Time of Paradox: America Since 1890. He is the winner of the Pace Setter Award for contributions to Milwaukee's film community from the Milwaukee Independent Film Society. David Luhrssen has taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and Milwaukee Area Technical College.