Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / The Favourite

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/favourite_poster.jpg

"As it turns out, I am capable of much unpleasantness."
Abigail
Advertisement:

The Favourite is a historically-inspired 2018 period drama film directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Set in the royal court of Great Britain at the beginning of the 18th century, the film is about how Lady Sarah Churchill and her cousin, Abigail Hill, become bitter rivals with each other for the powerful position of Queen Anne's personal favourite.

The film, which stars Olivia Colman as Queen Anne, Rachel Weisz as Lady Sarah and Emma Stone as Abigail, was released on November 23, 2018.


Advertisement:

The movie contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Nickname: Queen Anne and Sarah sometimes call each other "Mrs. Morley" and "Mrs. Freeman", respectively. These were childhood nicknames for each other, which Sarah uses to remind Abigail that she came first.
  • Ambiguously Bi: Sarah is Happily Married to her husband and her relationship with Anne is clearly at least partially to control her and push her political agenda, but at the same time she does seem to have genuine affection for the monarch. Abigail meanwhile seems to be just using Anne in her relationship with the Queen and has some interest in Masham, but can only be bothered to give him a handjob after their marriage, more or less ignoring him subsequently and is at least implied to be using him to increase her station much as she is using Anne. Anne herself has been pregnant 17 times and her husband is presumably dead note , and the film doesn't address her relationship with him. Of course, it was expected that monarchs marry and continue the royal line, so the fact that she took a husband doesn't preclude her from being a lesbian — it could have simply been her duty.
  • Advertisement:
  • Ambition Is Evil: Played with. It's justified that Abigail has already suffered from her previous loss of privileges, and her determination to work her way back up by any means necessary is admirable; however, what starts out as her using good-hearted wiles to get ahead quickly turns into underhanded manipulation to grow her power.
  • Animal Motifs: There's rabbits everywhere in the movie, because Queen Anne is exceptionally fond of them and keeps several as pets. Rabbits are generally seen as unclean animals in Western religions, and at the time of the film, rabbits were seen either as food or pests, which makes Queen Anne very eccentric. Rabbits also represent fertility — which is rather ironic, because in real life, Queen Anne lost all of her children either to miscarriages or premature births (her son and heir to the throne of Stuart, Prince William, was her longest-living child and died from a devastating combination of strep throat and pneumonia). This resulted in Queen Anne becoming a Broken Bird who coddles her rabbits as if they're her biological children, because they're the only family she has left.
  • Artistic License – History: Lanthimos himself has stated: "Some of the things in the film are accurate, and a lot aren't."
    • In real life, the relationship between Queen Anne and Sarah was already fraying before Abigail entered the picture (Sarah allegedly admitted to not even enjoying being around Anne and manipulated her for her own gain); though Sarah described Abigail as conniving and devious in her accounts of the events, it's seen as more likely that Queen Anne saw Abigail's sweet, even-tempered disposition as a welcome alternative to Sarah's forceful personality. Furthermore, Abigail never poisoned Sarah, and the rivalry between them had less to do with personal feelings about Anne (Anne and Sarah's relationship only ever being a Romantic Two-Girl Friendship) than about being on opposite sides of the political aisle.
    • The idea of a sexual relationship between Abigail and Queen Anne is generally accepted as slanderous rumours started by a bitter Sarah Churchill, and the idea that Sarah herself was in such a relationship with Queen Anne is something that comes from reading some of their letters to one another out of their historical context as well as something that Sarah herself took care to deny, and would have been difficult to have for various logistical reasons, such as Anne rarely leaving the bedside of her sick and dying husband, and she and Sarah fell out shortly after he died. Accusing monarchs of having same-sex relations with their closest confidantes was fairly common slander in courts of the day, so there is no special reason to think that this was any different.
    • Related to the above, Prince George of Denmark, the husband of Queen Anne, is entirely absent from the movie, despite still being alive at the time the film is set and Anne spending years caring for him in his own ill health. One of the reasons for Sarah and Anne's falling out in Real Life was Sarah not bothering to mourn for his death and generally acting like she didn't care that he was dead at all, so him not being in the movie at all changes the real life story quite a bit.
    • As admitted by the film's historical adviser herself, rabbits at the time were either pests or food, never pets.
  • Bad People Abuse Animals: The extent of Abigail's transformation into a selfish and cruel person shows when she abuses one of Queen Anne's precious bunnies while she thinks Anne isn't looking, pressing it under her foot almost to the point of crushing it. As it happens, Anne does notice, and starts to treat Abigail a lot more coldly.
  • Bastard Girlfriend: The three leads are this to each other throughout the film.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted with Sarah, who is given some nasty facial scars after being dragged along through a forest by her horse.
  • Beef Bandage: During the first bout of Anne's pain we see in the movie, servants place strips of beef on Anne's legs to soothe the inflammation.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Between Abigail and Masham. Abigail is interested in him, but becomes really impressed when he chases after her and repeatedly tackles her to the ground during an odd version of courtship as she slaps and kicks him. It doesn't last long, though, and after Abigail marries him and secures a title for herself, she all but dumps him.
  • Betty and Veronica: With Queen Anne as the Archie, Sarah and Abigail are both Betties and Veronicas. Abigail is lighter and more free-spirited than the buttoned-up, severe Sarah, which would make Abigail the Betty and Sarah the Veronica; however, Sarah's status as Anne's best friend from childhood and Abigail's status as an ambitious interloper would make Sarah the Betty, with Abigail as the Veronica.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: One of possible interpretation of Abigail is her turning the tables on everyone who bullied or mistreated her. But it's also very possible that she was never nice.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Constantly underlined by the fashions and wigs worn, especially by the Opposition leader, Harley. He's Sarah's second biggest enemy (after Abigail), as he is her husband's actual opposition and wishes to sue for peace against the French. He's also extremely camp, funny, the most overdressed member of the cast (with heavy makeup and exaggerated wigs), and is constantly making witty and accurate barbs about Anne and Abigail. They should still be afraid of him and his love of blackmail.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Abigail. While Sarah's certainly not a good person, Abigail is considerably more duplicitous. She leads Queen Anne to think of her as a kind and selfless companion, while actually exploiting her influence over the queen for personal gain and engaging in underhanded sabotage of her rival. It's something of a Downplayed Trope, though, if you think Abigail is sincere when she says she just learnt it from Sarah and was genuinely trying to be helpful and honest before Sarah vaguely threatens to kill her for knowing too much about her and the Queens' liaisons.
  • Bitch Slap: Queen Anne gives one to Sarah after the two of them leave a party; later in the movie, Sarah gives one to Abigail.
  • Black Comedy: As expected from a Yorgos Lanthimos joint (although he didn't write the script).
  • Black Comedy Rape: Nobody gets raped onscreen, but it's referenced a few times, usually in this context. For instance, when Masham comes to see Abigail in her quarters:
    Abigail: Have you come to seduce me, or rape me?
    Masham: I am a gentleman.
    Abigail: So, rape then? (immediately lays on her back and goes as stiff as a board)
    • She's also very matter-of-fact about the other rapes she's experienced.
    • When Sarah orders Abigail be whipped for barging into Queen Anne's quarters, one of the stewards drag her down to the kitchens and bends her over a table, whereupon the head servant offhandedly chides him and tells him to do that outside, not where they prepare food.
  • Blackmail: Sarah tries to get Queen Anne to dismiss Abigail by threatening to reveal the same-sex relationship between them. It blows up in Sarah's face.
  • Blatant Lies: When Abigail falls asleep in Anne's bed after having sex with Masham in the woods, Anne orders her out. As Abigail is leaving, Anne asks what happened to her dress, which is suspiciously rumpled and torn. Abigail's answer? "Wolves."
  • Break the Haughty: Sarah is arrogant and confident in her ability to make the queen do whatever she wants, and certainly doesn't think a mere maid like Abigail could threaten her dominance at court. Abigail eventually humiliates her and sends her packing.
  • Brutal Honesty: Sarah's stock and trade. Who else could tell the Queen of England that her makeup makes her look like a badger?
  • Bunnies for Cuteness: Abigail overcomes Queen Anne's initial skepticism by bonding with her through her rabbits, even throwing one a birthday party.
  • Clashing Cousins: Sarah and Abigail are cousins, but that doesn't make their rivalry any less intense.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: After Queen Anne doesn't initially buy her story about Sarah embezzling money, Abigail leaves the Queen's room and runs down the hallway, swearing a blue streak.
  • Comfort Food: Queen Anne eats a ton of cake when depressed.
  • Country Matters: With more frequency than you'd expect from a period piece set in a royal palace, mostly coming from Sarah.
  • Dead Guy Junior: Anne has seventeen of them; each of her rabbits represents a child that she's lost. One is named Hildebrand, and we can assume that the rest are named after her dead children, as well.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone, except maybe Queen Anne. Special mention goes to Sarah, Lord Harley and Abigail.
  • Destructive Romance: Anne and Sarah’s relationship is pretty disturbing what with all the psychological, emotional and at time physical abuse.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything? : After being caught almost crushing one of her beloved rabbits, Queen Anne orders Abigail to massage her legs while standing up and Abigail is crouching in front of her, with her face just a few inches of Anna's crotch. Add the fact that Anne puts her hand over Abigail's head during the entire act and you have a quite disturbing scene.
    • However, Queen Anne didn't seem to have any sexual pleasure out of it. She just wanted to humiliate Abigail and remind her that, after all, nothing has really changed for her.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After being continously mistreated and threatened by Sarah, Abigail eventually not only becomes the new favourite, but also orchestrates Sarah's and Duke Marlborough banishment.
  • Don't Look at Me!: Queen Anne demands this of a servant, immediately after demanding that he look at her.
  • Downer Ending: Abigail burns Sarah's letter of apology to the queen, so they never reconcile and Anne is clearly heartbroken. Convinced by Abigail that Sarah stole from her (whether she actually did is ambiguous), Anne banishes Sarah from the kingdom. Abigail seems bored and frustrated with caring for an increasingly cantankerous and senile queen. When she is caught crushing one of Queen Anne's beloved rabbits, Anne finally starts to realise how fake Abigail's affection for her is. The film ends with rabbits flooding the screen, a symbol of the endless madness and monotony of life at court, or perhaps Anne's declining mental state. Despite being a film premised around competing factions, it's clear by the end that no one has truly won.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: Used to tell apart the two political parties. Members of the Tory party wear brown or black wigs with no makeup, and are dressed in red coats. Whig party members wear powdered wigs and makeup, and wear cream coats over colourful waistcoats and breeches.
  • Evil Chancellor: Crossing over with the above trope. Harley, the Whig who leads the opposition, manipulates Abigail, forces her to become The Mole for him (which she resists), bullies the Queen, and attempts to intimidate Sarah.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Abigail gets progressively less sympathetic as the film goes on, resorting to becoming a poisoner in the film's final act. Her transformation could be this trope, or it's possible that she was always this nasty deep down, and was hiding it to get into royal favour.
  • Fallen Princess: Abigail's backstory. She was born into the nobility, but was forced to prostitute herself after her father gambled away the family fortune.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Both Sarah and Abigail are ruthless, scheming women who will do anything it takes to be the Queen's favourite and stay in power by feigning devotion and friendly attitude.
  • Fish-Eye Lens: Sees frequent use here.
  • Graceful Loser: Upon realizing she and her husband are about to be banished, Sarah nonchalantly tells her husband that she has tired of England and continues sipping her tea.
  • Groin Attack: Abigail gives a playful one to Lord Masham during their frolic in the woods.
  • Happily Married: Sarah and her husband appear to truly love each other, her relationship with Anne notwithstanding, in contrast to Abigail, who quickly begins to ignore Masham as soon as she's earned her title and no longer needs him.
  • Historical Beauty Update: If his portraits are anything to go on, the real Robert Harley was nowhere near as attractive as Nicholas Hoult.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade:
    • While it's impossible to know how much of the movie is accurate, being as so much took place behind closed doors, it's generally agreed upon that Abigail wasn't nearly as devious and scheming as Sarah (Lady Marlborough) would have you believe. She certainly never went so far as to poison Sarah, something even the historical Sarah Churchill never accused her of doing.
    • The charges of embezzlement against the Churchills are generally agreed to have been trumped-up accusations by the Whig party. In the film, they are either trumped up by Abigail herself, or Sarah really did embezzle the money for her husband, which is this trope either way.
  • Hollywood Costuming: The film's costume designer has freely admitted to Artistic License in the outfits.
    • The servants' dresses are partly made of denim, to symbolize the working class.
    • Anne's court dress would have been gold, but here it's decorated with ermine tails, as that's more associated with royalty these days.
  • Honest Advisor: Sarah insists that she is this to Anne, and not without reason — she can always be relied upon to say precisely what she thinks, even to the Queen.
  • Humiliation Conga: Sarah is poisoned and falls off her horse, which drags her into a forest where she wakes up in a bordello, with the owner initially intending for Sarah to pay them back for her medical treatment by whoring herself out and sells her horse. Correctly assuming that Abigail is behind this, she storms back to the palace and tries to blackmail the Queen into dismissing Abigail. This severs the relationship between the Queen and Sarah, who is stripped of her offices, sent away from the palace, and eventually exiled from England altogether.
  • Hunting "Accident": During a pigeon-shooting game, when Abigail indicates to Sarah that she knows about Sarah's and Queen Anne's secret sexual relationship, Sarah shoots a pistol charged only with powder at Abigail to scare her. Sarah says it's a common prank to shoot someone with a blank pistol, but one day she might just "forget" there's a ball loaded and shoot Abigail so that it looks like an accident.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Abigail justifies herself and her behaviour by saying that her only motivation is to save herself from destitution and homelessness, and that upright moral principles won't comfort her when she's prostituting herself to survive.
  • Idiot Ball: Sarah — you'd think she'd suspect Abigail of tampering with the Queen's letters and give it to Godolphin, who could hand it to the Queen in person or at least make sure it bypassed Abigail and actually did reach the Queen.
  • Ill Girl: Queen Anne suffers chronic pain from various maladies. Abigail's ability to relieve that pain is what brings her into the Queen's inner circle.
  • Inelegant Blubbering:
    • Queen Anne cries often, and is rarely dignified when she does so.
    • Abigail fakes this after deliberately injuring herself to make Sarah look bad and make Anne feel sorry for her.
  • Insult Backfire: When Abigail, in a disheveled state after her journey to the palace, asks Sarah for a job, Sarah snidely suggests that Abigail could be a monster to entertain the children. Abigail cheerfully says that she'd do that if she's asked to, giving a mock roar at Sarah to demonstrate.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Anne attempts to jump out a window but is stopped by Sarah, who seems disturbingly nonchalant about it. It's implied she's had to do this many times before.
  • Kick the Dog: Or rather, stomp the bunny. See Bad People Abuse Animals above.
  • Lady-in-Waiting: Sarah, and eventually Abigail, is this to Queen Anne.
  • Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Abigail, with her lighter hair and her airs of innocence, is the Light to the icy brunette Sarah's Dark. Especially noticeable that Abigail uses darker makeup and dresses after her Face–Heel Turn.
  • Logo Joke: The film's Fox Searchlight logo uses a quieter version of the Fox fanfare composed from, of all things, squeaks recorded from the set’s rabbit cages.
  • Lost Him in a Card Game: Abigail's gambling-addicted father lost her this way.
  • Manipulative Bitch: Sarah and Abigail. Even Queen Anne has her moments.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: The main gender dynamic of the movie. Although the main female characters wear dresses as appropriate for the time period, they're usually dressed seriously and practically, favoring muted colors and (mostly) forgoing makeup. The men of the movie, on the other hand, are wigged, brightly-colored dandies caked in makeup.
  • Mood-Swinger: Anne. "Look at me! How dare you? Close your eyes!"
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Duck racing. It's a mock-thrilling spectacle with dynamic camera views following the waddling ducks and slow-motion shots of the spectators' excited reactions, making a gleeful parody of the classic high-stakes horse race scene.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Abigail, upon first arriving at the palace. Of course, she's a very quick learner. And it's possible that some of her naivety is an act from the beginning, but it remains very ambiguous.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Sarah is a master at this. Abigail gets there, too.
  • Period Piece: Takes place in England during the early 18th century.
  • Pretty in Mink: Anne's court dress not only has the royal cape trimmed with ermine, but the dress has the puff sleeves and overskirt decorated with ermine tails.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "FIIIIIIIIIND! HEEEEEEEEEER!"
  • Puppet Queen: Queen Anne is a feeble, frivolous woman (most of the time), and her favourite is the true power behind the throne.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Abigail succeeds in driving Sarah out of the palace, and becomes the Queen's favourite; however, it's implied that, after a recent revelation, the Queen won't trust her anywhere near as much as she trusted Sarah, leaving Abigail as nothing more than the minder of a feeble, miserable old woman.
  • Rape as Backstory: Abigail talks quite matter-of-factly about having been raped in the past, and how her father lost her in a card game to a German who took sexual advantage of her.
  • Regal Ringlets: Mostly in keeping with the fashion of the day, Abigail and the male characters all have long, curly hair, or at least wigs with very defined curls. Representing her more masculine spirit, Sarah has straighter but still thick hair, and subverted for Anne, the actual queen, who has much more unkempt hair in keeping with her declining mental and physical state.
  • Riches to Rags: Abigail's father, a gambling addict, lost the family's fortune and nobility. The quest to gain back that nobility is what drives Abigail.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Very deconstructed and Played for Drama. Sarah especially takes on the role of being this kind of active royal, despite the fact that she's a lady and not queen. Because of her physical pain and disabilities, Anne wants to be left alone to eat sweet food and do nothing, which Abigail, who wants to have fun, lets her. Sarah is understandably concerned about her husband's safety, as he is fighting the French, and often cruelly berates her for her Idle Rich tendencies. This drives Anne away from Sarah and towards Abigail, but she still only really uses her power to get back at Sarah or win over Abigail. It's implied that she realises at the end how misguided this was, but is still helpless to act without Abigail's guidance.
    Sarah: (After being offered a new palace as a gift, right in a middle of a war) It is a monstrous extravagance, Mrs. Morley, we are at war.
    Queen Anne: We won!
    Sarah: No, it is not over. We must continue.
    Queen Anne: (sheepishly) Oh! Oh, I did not know that.
  • Scullery Maid: Before she connives her way into the Queen's inner circle, Abigail is given work as a scullery maid. It's hardly glamorous, but she doesn't stay there for long.
  • Sexposition: Played for Laughs when Abigail consummates her marriage to Masham. The camera focuses on her as she gives a monologue about her various machinations, all while giving her (very enthusiastic) husband a handjob.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Sarah's ladylike mannerisms can't conceal her formidable personality for long.
  • Single Tear: Abigail sheds one as she burns the letter Sarah sent to the Queen to make amends.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Abigail's courtship with Masham is this; they are constantly assaulting and attacking one another. He seems very into it.
  • Sleeping Their Way to the Top: Anne and Sarah have a sexual relationship which allows Sarah to keep her position as the favourite with its political influences, but she's not a straight version of this trope as she's always been a very upper-class lady. It's just that being by Anne's side allows her to be de facto queen. However, Abigail is a totally straight version. Despite everyone telling her that Masham will not marry a lowly servant, he does after she thoroughly seduces him. Emphasised in that she has no real interest in him after their marriage and torments him by flirting with other men. It's left ambiguous if she has slept with Anne until a Wham Shot when Sarah storms into Anne's rooms and sees Abigail topless in bed beside Anne.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: The typically mannered, polished period-piece dialogue is paired alongside more contemporary profanities, such as "vajuju".
  • Star Struck Speechless: Abigail has this twice, when she stumbles in on and meets Sarah after the staff mislead her, and then again when she meets Queen Anne for the first time.
  • Sweet Tooth: Queen Anne loves cake, hot chocolate, and other sweets, indulgences which have taken a physical toll on her.
  • Tampering with Food and Drink: Abigail's plan begins with her (non-fatally) poisoning Sarah through a cup of tea.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Abigail is ordered to have six strokes of the lash for barging into the Queen's bedchamber, but Sarah changes her mind and interrupts when Abigail is midway through, leaving her with three.
  • Throw the Book at Them: Sarah throws several books at Abigail during one of their confrontations. It's one of the worst ideas she ever had, being the turning point for Abigail to start scheming against her.
  • Toilet Humour: The mud that Abigail was pushed into upon arriving at the palace wasn't mud at all. Later, Sarah warns Abigail against giving Anne, who has a sensitive stomach, hot chocolate.
  • Trampled Underfoot: Abigail's descent into villainy and ultimate disdain about Queen Anne's feelings is shown by the end, when she nearly crushes one of the Queen's rabbits under her foot. The Queen is not amused.
  • Too Important to Walk: Queen Anne is occasionally carried about in a sedan chair by servants. A Justified Trope, since the sickly queen has difficulty walking.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Abigail is always cunning, but she starts off generally kind and plucky; once she starts flirting with a truly privileged life, she becomes increasingly ruthless and unconcerned with others.
  • Tsundere: Sarah to Queen Anne. Despite being stern and brutally honest, it's clear that she harbors genuine affection for her.
  • Unlucky Childhood Friend: Sarah subverts this at first, as her main power over Anne, even when they fall out, is how close they have been for their whole lives. Eventually, though, played straight, as Anne is manipulated by Abigail into replacing Sarah for her and she gets exiled.
  • Unusual Pets for Unusual People:
    • Queen Anne's collection of rabbits is this, through an in-universe example of Values Dissonance. Though rabbits are quite ordinary for pets these days, back in the early 18th century, they were seen as either a nuisance or a food source, making the Queen's pet collection even more eccentric than it already was. In Real Life, she had no pet rabbits at all.
    • Godolphin, the eccentric nobleman involved in various political intrigues, has a pet duck named Horatio that he takes with him everywhere he goes. Even to a bordello!
  • Upper-Class Twit: Masham is the straightest example, as he seems not very bright with it.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: All three of our main characters vomit at some point in the movie; Queen Anne after binge-eating cake, Abigail after getting plastered at a party, and Sarah after she's been poisoned by Abigail.
  • Womanchild: Queen Anne is prone to childish petulance and fits of tears, and spends more time doting on her rabbits (and her favourites) than she does actually running an empire.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: After a fight with Sarah, Abigail repeatedly beats herself across the face with a book in order to give herself a bloody nose. She checks a mirror to see if she looks appropriately piteous, and then turns on the waterworks to earn Queen Anne's sympathy.
  • Your Cheating Heart: As part of their Awful Wedded Life, Abigail openly flirts and plays around with other men in front of Masham, who's visibly bitter.
Top

Example of:

/

Feedback