By now, you’ve probably heard of the Golden Globe-nominated film The Favourite, starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. An awards-show darling about the reign of Queen Anne, it garnered rave reviews from the start. And while I believe the two headlining starlets (both nominated for best supporting actress) are more than deserving of the accolade, it’s Olivia Colman (nominated for best actress) who burns down the palace, so to speak.
While she may not be as big a household name as Stone or Weisz yet, she certainly should and will be. She already won a Golden Globe for her supporting role in the British TV series The Night Manager with Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie. She’s also starring in season three of Netflix’s The Crown as Queen Elizabeth II, the successor to Claire Foy’s role from the first two seasons.
But in The Favourite, she plays another monarch: Queen Anne, who ruled England, Scotland and Ireland for 12 years during the first decade of the 18th century. Her superb portrayal of a flighty, hotheaded and infantile queen is more than deserving of the highest praises, especially when it means stealing the show from two of the most acclaimed actresses in Hollywood.
At times pathetic, unpredictable and so damn manipulative, Colman’s Queen Anne is caught between the crosshairs of two lovers, both vying for her affection in order to serve their own self-interests. And while “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” it seems Colman’s wrath is subtler and nuanced, dealing with the inner struggle of trying to do what’s right for her subjects and still satisfying her basic human desires.
Gout, infertility and obesity are just a few of Anne’s physical maladies, not to mention her frivolous outbursts that border on bipolar. Anne’s personal struggles make her a burden to those around her, and only her royal title prevents the court from taking matters into their own hands. But while they laugh at her wooden wheelchair and increasing girth behind her back, Colman’s delivery of the childless queen is heartbreaking and gut-wrenching (literally). She eats cake until she throws up, then eats it again and again and again. She’s in so much pain from the gout that she can’t get out of bed, she’s at the mercy of her caregivers and she knows she’s only useful to those who see her as a means to an end. It’s this exquisite and sympathetic performance that leaves my skin crawling, and my heart aching, long after the curtains have closed.
Basically, it’s like watching a trainwreck. Except this train is headed straight for an Oscar nom.