The Favourite

Front Row at the Movies by Shirrel Rhoades

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Despite my long-ago English heritage, I’ve never been a big fan of movies about British history. (Read: costume dramas.)

Having just said that, I must confess a fondness for such performance-driven pieces as “A Lion in Winter” and “A Man for All Seasons.” And, yes, I’m a sucker for such pseudo-history fluffs as “The Adventures of Robin Hood” with Errol Flynn.

So here’s another English tale to add to my favored list – “The Favourite,” an absurdist not-quite-true story about Queen Anne, one of the lesser-known monarchs of England who reigned in the early 1700s during the war with the French.

Ironically, the director is Greek.

You may not recognize the name of Yorgos Lanthimos as quickly as that of some of his films, “The Lobster” and “Dogtooth” among them.

A surrealist at heart, Lanthimos approaches his films with an eye for domestic battles between families under one roof and the household idiosyncrasies that provide the dynamics for these encounters.

Here is no exception – although in this “twisty love and power triangle among British Royals” he has substituted the confines of the Royal Palace as the locale of his familial duels.

Lanthimos’s brilliant casting gives us Olivia Colman as an ailing Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as her trusted friend and lover Lady Sarah Churchill, and Emma Stone as Abigail Masham, a menacing ex-aristocrat who enters the scene intent on becoming Lady Churchill’s replacement.

While the Queen enjoys her scrumptious desserts and frets over her skin condition, Lady Churchill governs the country and wages war against the French. However, Lady Churchill is unprepared for the backstabbing of this charming new servant named Abigail. Before she knows it, Abigail has been appointed the Queen’s handmaiden and crawled into her bed.

Yes, a royal catfight ensues.

“The Favourite” is continuing its holiday run at Tropic Cinema.

You may have seen Olivia Colman as the lady cop on BBC’s “Broadchurch.” Here she delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as the irritable monarch who is being played (and playing) in this mean-spirited ménage à trois.

Rachel Weisz (Oscar-winner for “The Constant Gardner”) provides a stiff upper lip as she fights for her place in the royal hierarchy.

And Emma Stone (the American actress among the lot) shows off her dark side to great effect.

“The Favourite” is a cinematic cousin to “All About Eve,” “The Women,” and “Mean Girls.” But as designated above, it’s a costume drama.

Don’t let that deter you. This bawdy comedy is actually a timeless story about female power in a male-dominated world.

And the mostly black-and-white costumes designed by the legendary Sandy Powell live up to Yorgos Lanthimos’s best film to date.

Email Shirrel: srhoades@aol.com

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