Sunday, March 3, 2019

Video column: "The Favourite"

As I’m writing this Olivia Colman was just revealed as the surprise winner for the Best Actress Oscar, beating out heavy favorite Glenn Close. She was absolutely wonderful in “The Favourite,” although anyone who’s honest recognizes that hers is the supporting role, while Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are the leads.

Here’s a handy primer for mainstream movies: lead characters act upon their world and make things happen (or have things happen to them); supporting characters have little of their lives depicted other than that which impacts the protagonist(s)’ journey.

To put it into grammatical terms, leads are the subjects and supporting characters are the objects.

“The Favourite” is the embellished true story of the court of Queen Anne of Britain in the early 1800s. Widowed and without heirs, Anne (Colman) has become the creature of her friend, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), a “court favorite” who more or less acts in the stead of the monarch, who is either too sick or too disinterested in the running of her government.

As the story opens England’s war with France is still raging, and there is much debate about whether to end it or continue. Marlborough is opposing the Tory party leader (Nicholas Hoult) in deciding to press on or give in.

Enter Abigail Hill, a cousin of Marlborough’s fallen on hard times who begs a job as a scullery maid in the palace. Seemingly young and witless, Abigail soon realizes that the relationship between Anne and Marlborough is filled with both romance and abuse. She slyly worms her way in between the two women, eventually taking Marlborough’s place in the queen’s bed.

Like “Dangerous Liaisons” a generation ago, “The Favourite” is a period costume drama that beats with a vibrant modern heart. It’s a tale of love, betrayal and intrigue -- with the boys mostly on the side.

Bonus features are rather scant, consisting of a few deleted scenes and a making-of documentary: “The Favourite: Unstitching the Costume Drama.”



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