The Favourite (R)
Stone plays the impoverished, fallen-from-grace Abigail, the daughter of a one-time nobleman who lost her in a card game. She has arrived at the court of Britain’s Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), seeking help from Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), the monarch’s close friend and personal adviser and, it so happens, a distant relative of Abigail’s. Don’t expect any family warmth, however. The cool, calculating, judgmental Sarah regards Abigail with a mixture of bemusement and disgust. Nevertheless, Abigail gets a job as a servant, and a bath.
The young arrival, however, turns out to be a quick study, finding that she can navigate the palace’s seemingly genteel world of obsequiousness, self-abasement and manipulation as well as anyone. Sarah’s relationship with the queen extends also to intimate matters, and Abigail begins to discover the power of sex in matters of state. The trio of lead actresses dig into their parts with gusto, but beneath all their conniving and backstabbing, these women act like they deeply need this proximity to power — that it’s the one thing keeping them from ignominy and destruction.