If you’ve ever holidayed with lots of relatives and an elderly mother, you’ll really enjoy The Favourite.
In such a house, bitterness and joy are mixed every day with half-baked plans, offhand remarks, half-resolved feuds, subtexts about who’s helping, poorly repressed judgements, and the slippery consequences of her fading capacity.
But be sure, before taking her to The Favourite, that she’s up for the pleasures of swearing, lesbian menage-a-trois politics, and cold climactic endings. A mistake I made for sure.
Queen Anne is on the English throne, where the power of Parliament is rising but she still has to make all the hard calls including raising taxes to fight war with France. Her key advisor is Lady Churchill who’s married to the head of the armed forces.
A new maid arrives who rises quickly in court and seeks to supplant Lady Churchill.
The Queen herself is the centre of this. Psychically damaged since all her children died and in chronic physical pain, she has had to rely increasingly on Lady Churchill, who is totally conflicted in her advice.
The dynamics between this raging, failing monarch will strike into the heart of anyone who’s been chronically ill and relied on helpers, anyone old and losing personal power while still being relied upon for too much, anyone observing and playing the subtle politics of family life, anyone who never dealt with mortal grief and is still haunted by it.
And indeed anyone in a holiday house with too many relatives too many expectations and a volume of gin (Cheers, sigh).
The script is stiletto-pointed in its mordant comedy, all the men immaterial amusements or feckless fools.
But for those three women at its centre, this is an all-stakes-in battle akin to Heathers, Dangerous Liaisons or a fully female King Lear.