The Favourite, Westlands

WE wanted to see The Favourite, we wanted to see it in a proper cinema, not eventually on a DVD or on the tiny screen of a long-distance flight – and we wanted to try out the sofas at Yeovil’s Westlands entertainment centre. So last week we went to Westlands to see The Favourite, and our verdict is excellent all round.

Westlands isn’t the easiest place to find – South Somerset District Council please note: if you KNOW where Westlands is, it’s fine, but if you don’t the signs are not well placed and are quite confusing. Anyway, once you are there, it’s fine, with helpful reception staff, a very efficient booking system and a cafe serving a wide range of teas and hot and cold drinks as well as cakes that look and taste home-made.

The old Westlands ballroom has a large flat floor, so although there is raked seating at the back, the front area has two-seater sofas where you can relax and watch the film in considerable comfort.

We really liked that we could take our tea and cake in with us – and in proper mugs or cups, not disposable – and sit back and relax, with loads of foot room and a clear view of the screen. The screen itself is a good size and the angles are comfortable – some of us get neck ache if we have to sit too near a screen or the screen is too high.

So … to the film. All three of us loved it – it is often laugh-out-loud funny, very dark, sometimes shocking and casts a blackly satirical look at politics in the early 18th century.

The story is now familiar – Queen Anne, widowed, and crippled with gout and the effects of bearing 17 children, all of whom died before reaching adult-hood, has a close companion and adviser, the highly intelligent (scheming) and powerful Sarah Churchill, Lady Marlborough, whose husband is the leader of the Queen’s army in long-running wars with France.

Sarah acts for the Queen and in the Queen’s name, dealing with the foppish and resentful politicians and ensuring support for policies that favour the continuation of the war, with victory the hoped outcome.

Enter Abigail, an impoverished young cousin of the Duchess, who is found a post in the kitchen but rapidly makes herself known – and eventually invaluable – to the queen. In the process, the rivalry between the two companions spills over into a destructive battle for power over the fragile Queen.

The three actresses – BAFTA Best Actress Olivia Colman as the Queen, BAFTA Best Supporting Actress Rachel Weisz as Sarah and BAFTA Best Supporting Actress nominee Emma Stone – are all at the top of their game, capturing every nuance of their characters and playing them for all their worth in a very high stakes game.

The easily shocked may find some of the language a bit strong – but this was a time of louche behaviour in high society, bawdy drama and unrestrained sexuality.

It’s a glorious maelstrom of waspish wit, flamboyant physicality, daring dancing. ferocious fighting and ruthless ambition. And to judge from the comments of both Weisz and Colman at the BAFTAs, it was huge fun to film as well.


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