The Favourite is an … odd comedy

The Favourite is not for everyone. In a theater of roughly 12, at a New Year’s Eve matinee, three checked out early — two just as Emma Stone, playing Abigail, performed a blasé hand job on Joe Alwyn while brainstorming aloud how to get rid of her rival Rachel Weisz, playing Lady Sarah, to usurp her as Queen Anne’s “favourite.” It’s not a movie for weak stomachs nor for audiences seeking a cookie-cutter comedy or, inversely, a historical drama to take seriously. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. It can mean it’s just something different. It’s filthy. It’s over the top. Ridiculous. Silly. Stone and Alwyn tangle in the woods in one of the few airier scenes to explain this silliness. Alwyn’s diving all over the place, like a linebacker, chasing Stone and whiffing. The times he’s able to take her down, Stone’s playfully rolling around with him in heaps of leaves one second and whipping him across the face with an open-faced right hand the next. It’s just total hysteria.

The problem in me reviewing one of Emma’s movies is I can never be wholly unbiased. That said, here, I believe, she’s genuinely charming and a real crack-up. In light of Lady Sarah dismissing Abigail as her maid, Stone whacks herself senseless with a book until she draws blood and then she’s whiny-baby crying, her legs spread and shoulders hunched over, on the floor outside of the Queen’s room. The two act more like the Queen’s whiny children (for which she has none but 17 rabbits) — Weisz the snooty elder sibling, Stone the cunning younger one — than her maids, confidants and other things. The queen, too, played by Olivia Coleman, is anything but stable. Coleman’s a whole lot of a fabulous mess, in one of those sticks-with-you performances stashed for when we’ll be talking about awards. It’s all a little sloppy and out there, at times displeasing, but there’s also something so satisfying about watching a couple independent women, scheming, treating each other like shit, shooting down birds for target practice, and stepping all over men in their path to getting where they want to go. Being “The Favourite,” is being in the queen’s ear whatever way you can. It’s being in charge.

The Favourite: ★★ 1/2

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