The Favourite is a darkly comic tale of early 18th century England, centering on Queen Anne. Don’t know who Queen Anne is? That’s okay, neither did I. It’s almost better not knowing any of the history, because then you will be swept away by the film. But the story isn’t the reason I’m imploring everyone I know to go see The Favourite — it’s Rachel Weisz.
First, some context: Queen Anne, played masterfully by Olivia Coleman, is in a decline — she’s frail, has a loose grip on power, and is still coping with the deaths of 17 children (in childbirth/early childhood). Her close friend, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), effectively rules the country — she “helps” Anne make decisions, but is really the one making them. And not only is Sarah Anne’s most trusted advisor, she’s also (spoiler, but not really, it’s sort of inherent to the film) her lover! She’s her favourite (get it?!). The plot begins when Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives, who schemes into the Queen’s circle.
I love THE FAVOURITE because no character is a saint. You root for either Emma Stone or Rachel Weisz based on your preferred scamming style.
— Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) December 2, 2018
As Heather Hogan writes in Autostraddle, “It would appear, on the outside, to be all lavish parties and indoor duck racing and cartoonish powdered wigs: Queen Anne ruling, Lady Churchill following Queen Anne’s orders, and Abigail following Lady Churchill’s. Really, it’s an all-out war to become Anne’s most trusted ally; to be the once-powerless woman who, by proxy, now wields the authority of the crown.” The men in the film (played by Taylor Swift’s boyfriend Joe Alwyn and Nicholas Hoult) are largely irrelevant. I mean, they’re there. But you’re so focused on Olivia Coleman, Rachel Weisz, and Emma Stone that they drift to the periphery.
I won’t spoil what happens. Because you should really go enjoy The Favourite for yourself.
him: what's ur sign?
me: i'm a rachel weisz sun with an emma stone rising and olivia colman moon
— E. Alex Jung (@e_alexjung) December 3, 2018
What I will do is talk about how magnificent Rachel Weisz is in this role. (It must be noted that the conversations are centering on how amazing Olivia Coleman is in this film, playing Queen Anne, and these conversations are correct: Olivia is very, very good. But I’m here to chat about Rachel Weisz.)
First: let’s acknowledge that this is the second lesbian drama Weisz has starred in this year. And that’s no easy feat. As Weisz explained, the The Favourite “took 20 years to make. Because there is lesbianism and three females at the center of it.” (In her first queer film, Disobedience, Weisz plays Ronit, a British Orthodox Jewish woman who left her insular community and returns after the death of her rabbi father.) For many fans, Rachel Weisz’s commitment to playing queer characters is widely admired.
rachel weisz: WOMEN! LESBIANS! WOMEN LOVING WOMEN! I LOVE PUSSY! THE POWER OF WOMEN! LETS MAKE SOME LESBIAN MOVIES!
— nevil (@nunthedevil) November 28, 2018
“I’ve always played opposite men, so it just seemed like about time. It was very refreshing and very liberating,” Weisz said, explaining why she loves playing queer characters. Plus, “you’re guaranteed at least two (meaty) roles for women, rather than just one, so you’re off to a good start already.”
In another interview, she explained, “There’s incredible freedom in women playing opposite other women. They’ve never owned each other, historically. The patriarchy is not there at all. The history of women in relationship to men was about ownership and control.”
Yet Rachel Weisz also doesn’t like the question of playing against other woman (even though her answers are great). In a recent acceptance speech at the 2018 Gotham Awards, Weisz called out reporters who asked her what it was like to work with other women. She said in her speech, “I hope one day in the not-so-distant future we don’t get asked what it was like to share the screen with other women. Because I don’t think you ever ask men that.”
rachel weisz really is a fucking legend for doing this pic.twitter.com/kZWVztMw21
— 🦋 (@catexblanchett) November 27, 2018
The casting of Weisz as Lady Sarah was a genius decision. “Rachel has a very particular warmth in her presence,” director Yorgos Lanthimos told USA Today. “I thought it would be interesting to pair her with the character we had written, who if you weren’t careful, could come across as cold and calculating. Rachel brought a contradicting quality to her: a humanity that may have been missed.”
Weisz, who is British, didn’t know much about the royals before she signed onto the film (although she does admit to being “very moved by” the Royal Wedding, particularly because, “Now every little girl of color can think, ‘I could be a royal princess,’ if that’s what they want.”) Regarding Lady Sarah, Weisz found her a fascinating character. And while it is maybe not historically accurate that they were lovers, Sarah and Anne undoubtedly had a very close friendship.
But my favorite part of The Favourite? The absurd dance scene with Rachel Weisz and Joe Alwyn (he plays Samuel, very irrelevant). It’s absurd and serious and ridiculous all at once. It took a few weeks to choreograph and learn the dance; Weisz explained a choreographer came during rehearsal and “started to show Joe and myself the moves that she choreographed and during the next three or four weeks until we shot it, we would show it to [the director] Yorgos privately and he would refine it and say, ‘I don’t like that move, and I don’t like that one. Think of a new movement.'” The thought, and execution, is so perfect.
And my second favorite – favourite — part was definitely the shooting scenes. The tension! The drama! The subsequent gifs!
Critics are taking note; The Favourite is widely considered a front-runner for Oscar nominations, according to award-watch website Gold Derby. And just this morning, Weisz received a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress (she’s competing against Emma Stone), and the film itself got five nominations (Yorgos Lanthimos, the director, was snubbed!).
In short, Rachel Weisz is a star. Go see The Favourite.