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The Favourite

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
The Favourite Movie Poster Image
Vicious, darkly funny, brilliantly cast costume dramedy.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 119 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Cleverness and strength are used to pursue selfish purposes, such as power and vengeance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

No genuinely good people in this movie. Main characters are strong, ferocious women, but they don't try to help others or behave in any kind of admirable way; they're selfish, pursuing power and vengeance.

Violence

A character is dragged by horse, with bloody wounds to her face. A character is briefly whipped with a birch branch. Birds shot with rifles. A character shoved out of a carriage falls into mud. Men push and shove a woman in several scenes. A woman smacks, hits, kicks a man. A character hurls books at another. A character smacks herself in the face with a book. Slapping. Poisoning. Description of a violent dream: "covered in blood, holding a human head." Description of boy holding a girl down, spitting in her face. Dialogue about queen having lost 17 children. Mentions of rape. Dialogue about being whipped. Threats. Vomiting. Placing foot on rabbit's neck.

Sex

Naked breasts and bottoms. Partial full-frontal male nudity (a man covers his genitals with his hands). Couples have sex while standing up, partly clothed; repeated thrusting shown. Passionate kissing, embracing, sensual moaning. Same-sex and opposite-sex kissing. Woman in a sheer dress. Brief image of implied masturbation (nothing graphic shown). Strong sexual dialogue.

Language

Several uses of "f--k," plus "c--t," "c--k," "a--hole," "son of a bitch," "va-joo-joo."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character is extremely drunk in one scene.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Favourite is a period drama about two women (Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz) vying for the favor of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in 18th-century England. Expect some strong violence, including a woman being dragged by a horse, with bloody wounds on her face. Men push and shove women, and women hit back. (Women hit each other, too.) Rape and other types of violence are spoken of, and guns are fired at birds for sport. Women's naked breasts and bottoms are shown, and a naked man tries to cover his genitals with his hand. Sex/kissing scenes between both same-sex and opposite-sex couples include sensual moaning and touching, plus some thrusting. Masturbation is implied, and there's strong sex-related dialogue. "F--k" is used several times, as are "c--k," "c--t," and "a--hole." A character gets very drunk in one sequence. The movie is pessimistic and vicious but also quite funny, and it's gorgeous to look at. Viewers over 17 searching for something off the beaten path may like it.

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What's the story?

In THE FAVOURITE, it's 18th-century England, and Abigail (Emma Stone) heads to the palace. There, her cousin, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), works for and is the close confidante (and sometime lover) of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman). At first, Abigail is asked to work in the scullery as a maid, where she's picked on by cruel co-workers. Meanwhile, Lady Sarah more or less runs things, taking charge of the war on France during the queen's frequent bouts of illness or sulking. Abigail sees an opportunity to improve her own station by preparing a homemade salve for the queen's gout. With Lady Sarah away running things, Abigail becomes ever closer to the queen and even seduces her. But when Lady Sarah realizes that her position is threatened, she starts an all-out war -- a war that the crafty Abigail herself is only too qualified to fight.

Is it any good?

Director Yorgos Lanthimos adds a dose of wicked, whiplash humor to his usual bleakness in this largely effective costume movie, filled with deep-focus visuals and strong, ferocious women. Lanthimos' previous movies -- like Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer -- were relentlessly dystopian and malicious, and The Favourite continues that worldview. There are few, if any, good people in Lanthimos' movies. But this time, thanks perhaps to a screenplay by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, the iffy behavior can at least inspire laughter.

It helps that both Stone and Weisz are so good and so brilliantly cast. Most actors in these kinds of movies tend to get swallowed up by the costumes, the stiff dialogue, and the stagnant visuals. But Stone is clever, perky, and playful, and Weisz is cool, decisive, and sensual; they clash beautifully. Lanthimos uses an ultra-wide-angle lens that causes rooms to warp as it pans, and this creates a distinctly off-kilter quality, adding to the nightmarishness of the world. (It also makes things a bit more kinetic.) But in the end, the back-and-forth between the two central characters doesn't really have an ending, and The Favourite drags on too long before fizzling out. Thankfully, Colman's winning, unfettered performance as the petulant queen is a memorable takeaway.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Favourite's violence. Were you expecting that type of content in a costume drama? How does that affect its impact?

  • Is the violence directed at women mitigated by the fact that the women can "take it" -- and also dish it back out? Why or why not?

  • How does the movie depict sex? Are relationships based on love? Other things? What values are imparted?

  • Do you consider any of the characters role models? Why or why not? What's the appeal of watching characters behaving badly?

  • What did you learn about Queen Anne? Did the movie inspire you to learn more about her? Do you think this is an accurate portrayal of history?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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