Gender ambiguity & lesbian love triangles fill “The Favourite”

Mitchell Famulare, Arts Editor

Deemed a dark drama-comedy, Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Favourite” displays an innovative look back on forgotten history. Profiling eighteenth century England under the reign of Queen Anne, the film relvolves around gossip, lust and deception. Nominated for ten academy awards with transcedent performances from Oliva Coleman (Queen Anne), Rachel Weisz(Lady Sarah) and Emma Stone (Abigail), “The Favourite” calls for a certain nostalgia of the past while bringing about new representation to the screen.

Filmed at various locations around England with costumes infused with the utmost glamour and gender ambiguity, the film brings about its first point of innovation in the period piece. Lanthimos’s characterizes Queen Anne as one with immese sickness, having no apparent control of the kingdom. Due to this, Lady Sarah appears to report most of the decisions to Parliament herself rather than the Queen. As the kingdom is inherently ruled by women, men fill Parliament. It is in the way Lanthimos’s characterizes and critiques these men that makes this dark-comedy all the more thrilling.

Heartthrob Nicholas Hoult plays a pivotal role in Parliament, attempting to manipulate the Queen’s ladies in waiting to achieve his personal poltical goals. While we observe Hoult’s dynamic attempts, he struts around the palace in a larger than life wig, his face powdered with make-up, and his lips doused in red lipstick. While today, we see a strict sense in what we deem is maculine or not, Lanthimos opens the dialogue to what was masculine in the eighteenth century. In a historical sense, we see the end of men indulging in these luxuries at the turn of the nineteenth century as men deemed these things feminine. Why we see this is outcome unsure. Nevertheless, Hoult’s character serves to counter Stone’s deceptive and manipulative character, both appearing to be switching gender roles, whether it be how one is supposed to act or dress. The viewer inherently views the palace as a place where gender has no rules in this fight for power.

What drives this film, is the competition between Lady Sarah and her cousin Abigail for the Queen’s love and affection. As Lady Sarah has had a love affair with Queen Anne for most of her reign, Abigail is brought into work for the palace as a result of her immese poverty. When experiencing harsh treatment from the other workers in the palace, Abigail does whatever it takes to rise in the heirarchy of the kingdom. It is through her determination, intelligence and manipulation that she harnesses the Queen’s attention. An immese rivalry occurs between the two cousins with sexuality, desire and the need for dominace, driving the rest of the film.

Bringing to light this historically accurate plot line, as seen through letters between Lady Sarah and Queen Anne, not only is Lanthimos bringing to light something landmark in LGBT history, but he is also reclaiming a space for LGBT individuals in the period piece. With an immese amount of critical accolades, “The Favourite” takes the viewer through a story that wasn’t revealed to them through the various teasers and trailers released by Fox Pictures.

From the trailers we can see a chaotic royal dynamic but no signs of the sexual innuendos, gender ambiguty, or let alone the lesbian love triangle that dominates the film. With an intent to expose his audiences, Lanthimos uses “The Favourite” as a tool to open new dialogue and representation in the niche period piece. With LGBT representation being achieved through films like “Moonlight” and “Call Me By Your Name,” “The Favourite” continues this attempt to tell everyone’s story.