The Favourite

The Favourite

Friday 13 December 2019 7.30pm

Doors and bar open 6.45pm
Lympstone Village Hall
Members free
£5 on the door

Programme Notes

These programme notes, including information about the shorts, also available as a pdf The Favourite programme notes.

(UK/Ireland/USA, 2018) Running time 120 mins

Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos

Screenplay by Deboarah Davis, Tony McNamara

Starring Olovia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, Emma Stone

Cinematography Robbie Ryan

The Favourite tells of Queen Anne, who reigned from 1702 to her death in 1714, and her relationship with two of her court favourites.

Deborah Davis wrote the first draft of the film in 1998. Her research led her to the discovery of a ‘female triangle’. It turns out there is a wealth of original sources, including letters and memoirs, as well as historical accounts of the period – such as one by Winston Churchill who wrote about his ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough.

Limited intellectually, but conscientious and calculating, Queen Anne relied much on advisers and friends, particularly Sarah Churchill and her husband Sir John, Duke of Marlborough. The Queen and Sarah even developed a private language, with quaint soubriquets, or nicknames, for the two women and their consorts, ‘Mr and Mrs Freeman’ and ‘Mr and Mrs Morley’. This film also tells of a friendship that developed with Sarah’s cousin, Abigail, Baroness Masham.

The Queen was a patron of theatre, poetry and music. She subsidised George Frideric Handel with £200 a year. She sponsored high-quality medals as rewards for political or military  achievements, produced at the Mint by Isaac Newton. She knighted Newton in 1705.

Nurturing her friendship with the Churchills, and despising many prominent politicians, Anne faced difficult issues: the Whig/Tory party battle, the condition of the Anglican Church, and the looming war in Europe over the Spanish succession. Anne presided over weekly cabinets, and made personal decisions over crucial events such as the declaration of war in 1702 and the negotiation of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Marlborough won many battles for her, including a stunning victory at Blenheim, but her greatest achievement was the Acts of Union, under which England and Scotland were united into a single kingdom called Great Britain, with one parliament.

She took seriously her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and showed genuine concern for the happiness and welfare of her subjects. Devoted to her dull-witted husband Prince George she gave birth or suffered miscarriage no less than 17 times, though none of the children born survived, and only one lived for more than a few years. Her greatest pleasure in life was eating.

The film is directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, a Greek screenwriter and director, known for the films Dogtooth, Alps and The Lobster. Casting was crucial and he said, ‘It’s one of those things when you feel you’re right and you need to insist no matter what.’ Colman was his only choice for Queen Anne. Emma Stone auditioned for Abigail after asking her agent to contact Lanthimos, who then asked Stone to work with a dialect coach.

Colman found playing Anne ‘a joy, because she sort of feels everything’. When asked if the character was just a petulant child, she responded, ‘She’s just a woman who is under confident and doesn’t know if anyone genuinely loves her. She has too much power, too much time on her hands.’ Colman said the difference between Anne and the previous queens she has played was that ‘the other queens didn’t get to fall in love with two hot women’. Since then she has taken on another Queen, in The Crown. Rachel Weisz described the film as a ‘funnier, sex-driven’ All About Eve, and was primarily attracted to the project by the prominent female leads, considering her role to be ‘the juiciest’ of her career.

Filmed at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire and Hampton Court Palace.

Harland Walshaw