“The Favourite” (2018). Cast: Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Nicholas Hoult, James Smith, Joe Alwyn, Mark Gatiss. Director: Yorgos Lanthimos. Screenplay: Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Web site. Trailer.
We all love to get our way. It’s fulfilling when we see our wishes come to fruition, often leaving us with a warm, satisfied glow inside. But how we get there can be challenging, especially if we find ourselves pushing too hard to see the desired result realized. So it is with a beleaguered monarch and her two closest but contentious advisors in the new period piece dark comedy, “The Favourite.”
In 18th Century England, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) rules – or attempts to rule – her empire in the face of many public and personal challenges. Officially speaking, the capricious, tempestuous monarch is charged with overseeing the country’s war efforts against pesky continentals (most notably the French), although she’s often clueless as to the status of the conflict. She’s also responsible for figuring out how to pay for the military campaign, a quandary that frequently embroils her in the midst of an ongoing battle between opposing forces in Parliament pitting the ruling Tories, led by Lord Godolphin (James Smith), against the power-seeking Whigs, under the stewardship of Lord Harley (Nicholas Hoult). And she must contend with the ire of the land-owning gentry, who rail at attempts to raise taxes to raise revenue for the war effort. It’s a lot to handle for someone who’s easily befuddled and more interested in indulging her self-indulgent whims than addressing the affairs of state.
Personally, the Queen has more than a full plate of issues. Her health is failing in many ways, a problem that has been unfolding both physically and psychologically for years. She’s also lonesome, given that she’s been widowed and has suffered the deaths of 17 children lost through miscarriages, stillbirths and various forms of early demise. And, when she doesn’t get her way, even in the simplest of matters, she often flies into a hysterical, uncontrollable rage, followed by bouts of prolonged, inconsolable whimpering.
Fortunately, Her Majesty is not without sources of comfort. Her doting, ever-attendant companion, Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), is constantly by her side, offering reassurance and guidance, even if providing such comfort means being less than truthful. In return for such “kindness,” the Queen rewards her confidante handsomely, both in her personal affairs and the public agendas she clandestinely seeks to promote (or, more precisely, seeks to skillfully manipulate into being). And, most of the time, the Queen falls for her companion’s carefully orchestrated schemes.
Things begin to change, however, with the arrival of a young woman seeking employment at the palace, Abigail (Emma Stone). As a distant relative of Lady Sarah, Abigail hopes her connection will help her land a position in the royal household. Abigail believes that such a new station will help her restore the aristocratic standing she held before her father “lost her” on a bet, an event that thrust her into a life of servitude and degradation. Fortunately, her connection to Lady Sarah helps her secure a position, though, as part of the kitchen help, it’s far from what she had hoped for. But, despite this setback, Abigail is not ready to give up just yet.
When the Queen becomes ill with painful leg sores, Abigail draws upon her knowledge of healing remedies to help out. She takes it upon herself to collect herbs from the nearby forest to make a balm that she applies to the monarch’s lesions while she sleeps. Although her actions are seen as somewhat presumptive by Lady Sarah, Abigail’s initiative pleases the Queen, something that gets the new arrival promoted to the position of the monarch’s personal maid. As Anne and Abigail get to know one another, the servant becomes a confidante whose influence rivals that of Lady Sarah, something that notably perturbs the advisor who believes she has exclusive access to Her Majesty’s ear. And, quite understandably, she resents it, her anger seething ever more with each passing day.
Of course, Abigail’s newfound standing carries a cost. With her influence with the Queen rising, Lord Harley seeks to take advantage of this development by recruiting Abigail into his ranks. He strong-arms her into using her clout to spy on and curry favor with Her Majesty, specifically when it comes to his legislative agenda. At the same time, though, Abigail wants something in return. She seeks to further the restoration of her standing by courting an available suitor, an influential military man, Samuel Masham (Joe Alwyn), a romance that both Lord Harley and the Queen help to facilitate. And, the more Abigail’s star rises, the more it grinds away at Lady Sarah, who helplessly stands by and watches her influence wane. By now the game is clearly afoot as both Lady Sarah and Abigail each seek to be crowned “the favourite.”
So, with everyone conniving to get his or her way, who will come out on top? Well, under most circumstances like this, and at the risk of playing spoiler, the answer typically would be no one. That’s because virtually everyone concerned here is running afoul of one of the key principles of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that maintains we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents in partnership with our divine collaborator.
Specifically, all of the leading and supporting players in this story are attempting to get their way by pushing the Universe, a practice for which there’s no need. In fact, doing so could actually end up doing more harm than good. As those who are well versed in conscious creation know, our divine collaborator – the Universe, God, Goddess, All That Is or whatever other term best suits you – naturally leans in our direction. Our manifestation partner innately wants to see us succeed and does what it needs to do to help make that possible, even if it doesn’t always seem so. It’s not uncommon, for example, to experience confusing or frustrating setbacks on our way to getting what we want. When such situations arise, we might look at them utterly perplexed, wondering why these seemingly inexplicable detours have occurred. After all, we’ve probably convinced ourselves that we’ve been clear in stating our intents and forming beliefs to make them possible, so why aren’t they materializing? What accounts for these unexpected diversions?
There could actually be many reasons. For instance, in helping to facilitate the manifestation of one of our intents, the Universe may need to arrange for the occurrence of a particularly fortuitous synchronicity that will enable the fulfillment of our sought-after goal. Getting to the destination in this case may seem like it involves going the long way around, but the Universe knows which route will best enable reaching the desired outcome, and we should allow it to do its job. After all, as our partner in creation, it inherently has our best interests at heart, so why would it steer us wrong?
But how many of us are willing to cut our materialization collaborator the necessary slack to see such outcomes realized? We may grow impatient, or we may not be able to peer through the flotsam to see the process as it works itself out. Frustration can set in, and we may try to take matters into our own hands by forcing the situation into being. But this is pushing the Universe, and the results of such endeavors are often disappointing, resulting in delays, distortions or denials of what we hoped would materialize.
The principals in “The Favourite,” sadly, are all pushing the Universe to one degree or another. Whether they resort to bullying and berating one another or brewing secret potions or drawing upon their sexual wiles, they all employ these assorted tactics to push their agendas when things don’t transpire as hoped for, either in terms of time frame or the nature of their circumstances. Instead of trusting the Universe, they try to manhandle their existence into being by wrestling their divine collaborator into submission in hopes that such duress will somehow grant them their wishes.
However, as they all come to discover, their beliefs and actions carry consequences – potentially serious ones – especially when their creations don’t live up to their expectations or when they’re imbued with unanticipated qualities. There’s even a sort of karmic element to what manifests, as what goes around clearly comes around.
When we focus our beliefs and attention exclusively on results with no consideration for the consequences, we unwittingly engage in acts of un-conscious creation or creation by default. This is a perilous course for manifesting our reality, for it can pervert what we’re looking for; it might provide us with what we seek but simultaneously saddle us with all kinds of unintended side effects. Similarly, it may delay or completely deny us what we’re attempting to create, leaving us more frustrated than ever. Examples of each of these outcomes can be seen in the experiences of the Queen and her two confidantes.
So how does one overcome the potential pitfalls of this course of conduct? In nearly all instances, it can be counteracted by an act of faith, an affirmation of the trust we place in our divine collaborator’s backing to help fulfill our goals. It should be noted, though, that this is a belief in its own right, one that’s just as easily supported, or thwarted, as any other we hold. That undercutting typically results when we embrace beliefs based on fear, doubt or contradiction, all of which tend to impede the Universe’s ability to carry out the acts of cooperation we expect it to. Thus, if we think we’re placing our faith in our collaborator’s ability but still don’t see results, we need to take a step back and reassess the nature of our faith-based beliefs – and whether any other intents are at odds with them.
For their part, Queen Anne, Lady Sarah, Abigail and all of their various cronies clearly have issues when it comes to these matters, which is why their plans often go awry or run into a myriad of complications. Because of that, their experiences serve as powerful cautionary tales about what not to do when it comes to conscious creation practices. However, as frustrating as it can be to watch these train wrecks unfold, they often teach us a great deal about what to do by showing us what not to do. And, to be sure, there’s plenty of that going on here.
None of this is meant to suggest that this picture is a depressing tragedy. To the contrary, “The Favourite” is a hilarious romp from start to finish. This wickedly dark, smug period piece comedy is sure to leave viewers routinely agasp at its outrageous humor, which marvelously mixes understatement with in-your-face bawdiness. The three protagonists, brilliantly portrayed by Colman, Stone and Weisz, never disappoint, with each at the top of their game. The film’s smartly written script is crisp and snappy throughout, even if it takes liberties with history and occasionally falls back on director Yorgos Lanthimos’s signature penchant for needless ambiguity. Not everyone will go for this one, though; if you’re easily offended by raucous, ribald humor, this offering is not for you. But, if you enjoy such material, you’ll love this release. Think of it as a mix of the cattiest moments from Dynasty dressed up in 18th Century trappings, and you’ve got an idea what “The Favourite” is all about.
This film is hauling in a boatload of recognition in this year’s awards competitions. In the upcoming Golden Globe Awards contest, “The Favourite” earned five nominations, including best comedy film, best screenplay and acting nods for all three protagonists (Colman in the lead category and Stone and Weisz for their supporting roles), all of whom also earned corresponding recognition in the Screen Actors Guild’s awards program. Among the Independent Spirit Award nominees, the picture earned a nod for best international film. And, in the Critics Choice Awards, the film took in a whopping 14 nominations, including nods for best picture, comedy, director, original screenplay, acting ensemble, and the performances of Colman, Stone and Weisz. There are sure to be more accolades to come where this film is concerned.
When our plans go awry, there may be a natural tendency to throw a tantrum or take the bull by the horns to get what we want. But, as good as such venting might feel in the moment, does it really bring us any closer to attaining what we seek? That’s certainly debatable, and the experiences of those in this film would seem to bear that out. So have faith that the Universe will lean in our direction at some point or another. And giddily relish the results when they make their presence felt.
Copyright © 2018, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.