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The Favourite (2018)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/5/2019

All Ratings out of
Movie: ½

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/27/2019

Oscar season brings a plethora of things for film-fans to love.  Of course, there are the awards themselves, from the nominations to the predictions to the awards broadcast itself.  Following the event, there parties for the celebrities and a great deal of complaining and Monday-morning quarterbacking from cinephiles.  However, my favorite part of post-Oscar season may be a bit more obscure.  When an Oscar-nominated/winning film, especially one which has been praised by critics, hits home video, I love to read the comments on IMDB.com and Amazon to see what the general public thinks of the movie.  Here you will find hilariously scathing remarks on what are supposed to the best movies of the year.  Last year, the amateur critiques of The Shape of Water provided a great deal of entertainment.  For this season, The Favourite has been attracting some barbs.  Does it deserve this scorn?


At some point in the past, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) rules over England.  But, she does this with the frequent counsel of Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), who is always by her side.  The two are inseparable, and Anne loves to shower Sarah with affection and gifts.  One day, Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) arrives at the castle.  Once a noble, she has fallen on hard times and hopes that her cousin, Sarah, can provide employment.  Sarah obliges, and Abigail begins works in the kitchen.  When Anne suffers a flare-up of gout, Abigail takes the opportunity to apply an herbal cure to the Queen’s legs.  Anne is grateful for this and insists that Abigail be made part of her staff.  Thus begins a competition between Sarah and Abigail to see who can secure the most attention from Anne.  These two women will stop at nothing to be the Queen’s favourite.


From the outset, things go awry with The Favourite.  This is a period piece, but it certainly isn’t a historical drama.  If you’ve come here to learn anything about history, then you are in the wrong place.  We are never told what year it is.  We learn nothing about Anne’s background (how she became queen, her relationships, etc.).  It’s clear that England is at war with France, but no other details are given.  (History is by far my weakest subject, so I need some context.) 

Why doesn’t The Favourite share this information?  Because the film has no interest whatsoever in portraying history as it happened.  Instead, Screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tom McNamara and Director Yorgos Lanthimos have taken actual people from history and created a fictional tale around them which is more focused on rabbits and lesbianism than portraying the facts.  I’ll leave it up to the reader to research which parts of The Favourite are not accurate, but suffice it to say that “most” is a good answer.


Now that history has been thrown out the window, what do we have left?  Basically, this is an episode of “Real Housewives of Whatever Castle This Is”, as the films raison d’etre devolves into scene after scene of Abigail and Sarah double-crossing one another and constant back-stabbing.  All while the frail Queen Anne moans and vomits.  The sets and costumes would lead one to believe that The Favourite is a high-brow film, but it’s basically an 18th Century version of the second half of Dumb & Dumber.  Added to this mixture is the idea that not only do Saran and Abigail want to be the Queen’s prime confidant, but they want to be her lover as well.  The idea of the character’s being gay doesn’t bother me, but this simply adds another odd cog to a machine which isn’t working in the first place.


Even those who hated The Favourite still applauded the acting, but that didn’t impress either.  Colman’s Best Actress win surprised everyone, including her, and it’s even eye brow raising once you’ve seen the film and realize that she really doesn’t do much in her role.  Weisz is playing the sort of emotionally cold and controlling character which we’ve seen her play before.  The real weak link here is Emma Stone.  I could be wrong, but I think that the audience is supposed to perceived Abigail as meek and innocent at the beginning, so that her wicked ways will be more shocking.  But, I didn’t buy it and thus her character’s transformation had no effect.  Adding insult to injury, Lanthimos has made some odd stylistic choices, using a fish-eyed lens at times and incorporating one of the most annoying soundtracks of all time.  So, in the end, we have three unlikeable main characters who spend the film doing bad things to one another.  Instead of offering drama, pathos, humor, or anything else, we get a bad episode of Jackass.  Let the comments from disappointed viewers commence!


The Favourite proves that television has made life better on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.  The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 33 Mbps.  The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials.  The colors look very good, and the image is never overly dark or bright.  The level of detail is notable, as we can make out surfaces on objects, and the depth works quite well, most notably in the long hallway shots.  The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps.  The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects.  This is somewhat odd to say, but, unfortunately, the track works quite well in presenting the throbbing score, which will have some viewers muting the film.  In crowd scenes, we get nice placement in the rear channels, and the stereo effects alerts us to sounds coming from off-screen.


The Favourite Blu-ray contains only a few extra features.  “The Favourite: Unstitching the Costume Drama” (22 minutes) does have the decency to admit that the film is not historically accurate.  The cast and the creative team discuss the story and the themes of the film, while also talking about how they approached their peculiar take on history.  A lot of the focus here is on the story and characters, including a look at the cast.  The costumes and the production do get addressed in the second half of the piece.  The Disc offers four DELETED SCENES which run about three minutes.  The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.

Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long