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Favourite, The


Stars: Emma Stone, Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz, Joe Alwyn, Nicholas Hoult, James Smith, Mark Gatiss

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

Despite multiple London Critics' Circle and US Golden Globe nominations, I found this earthy 18th century version of All About Eve to be an ugly, unpleasant film that's tough to stay with.

Lesbianism has been all the rage on film and TV through the latter half of the year, and here it is again, with Weisz in her second go at the theme after Disobedience (what will Daniel say?), as Lady Sarah Churchill, the power behind the throne of plumply gasping Queen Anne (Colman), as well as her secret lover.

It's around 1710 and Anne's court welcomes newcomer Abigail (Stone), an aristocrat fallen on hard times and seemingly destined to become a scullery maid. But the manipulative and spiteful Abigail has her mind set on higher things, and she has soon wormed her way, via becoming Sarah's servant, into the queen's affections, as well as her bed.

Sarah quickly senses the arrival of a rival, but Abigail's smiler-with-a-knife may be too clever.

All this is told at a pace that would try the patience of a saint, with few aspects of sex and bodily functions left unexplored and visceral dialogue that jars in the historical context,

There's one particularly pointless and protracted scene in which courtiers throw fruit at a fat and naked man that underlines the unapproachable nature of this deeply dislikeable film with characters to match, and storythreads that go nowhere.

Stone and especially Colman are excellent, however, with Weisz somewhat less so. Her performance is stiff, and some of her line readings a little off. Other characters tend to blend into the murky, mucky backdrop.

David Quinlan

UK/Ireland/USA 2018. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour by deluxe.
119 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 27 Dec 2018