The Favourite is one of the buzz-iest movies right now. Apparently, it is set out to win Oscars, Golden Globes, and every other award out there. Everyone is raving about how amazing it is, and that everybody needs to see it immediately. However, I don’t think that any of those people saying that are historians…
I hated The Favourite. I hated it with a burning passion. It took one of my favourite periods in royal history and made a mockery of it for no apparent reason. This is not a film about Queen Anne, the Duchess of Marlborough, Baroness Mashem, or anyone else. It is an arthouse film that exists to show off cinematography, clavichords, and anachronisms.
I have read a good ten pieces to date about how it is a tale of female friendship and power. This film took any of the real Queen Anne et al’s accomplishments and turned them into spectacle and mockery, for the point of a film. Queen Anne was actually a dedicated monarch, and took a vested interest in running the country. But that doesn’t make for a grotesque spectacle of a film, does it?
There is no real evidence that Queen Anne and Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough had a lesbian relationship. There is nothing wrong if they did, but this film makes it appear like their sexual relationship is the defining element of their friendship and lives. They were true friends, kindred spirits as Anne Shirley would say, and The Favourite reduces all of that for cheap entertainment.
One of my biggest issue is of course, the history behind it. I know that it wasn’t made for historians, but once again, what is so boring and awful about the past that it must be twisted for our purposes? The Favourite seems to forget that Anne dearly loved her husband, George, Prince of Denmark, and that her friendship with Sarah broke down because Sarah felt that she was too involved in her grief. George is never seen or mentioned once… And those rabbits that Anne uses to mark her lost children? They wouldn’t have been kept as pets. Finally, because of course the dancer in me has to say this: that bizarre dancing they do? Nowhere even close to accurate. And it took me out of the movie, which I think is not what any filmmaker wants.
So, I can’t recommend The Favourite in any way. I would recommend you catch Mary, Queen of Scots instead, and then maybe read Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion! (I am waiting for my request to come from the library!)