Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: The Favourite

“Creed II” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

The portrayal of Great Britain’s Queen Anne (played by freshly anointed Best Actress Oscar winner Olivia Colman) in “The Favourite,” as well as the various fops and dandies that comprise her court, are the worst kinds of upper crust nobles: Detached from reality and uncaring about the common people whom they so callously send off to war. The only decent one among them is Robert Harley (Nicholas Hoult), who knows that doubling taxation to continue fighting a war against the French will lead to a revolt in Britain. He is deeply concerned about this course of action. The rest of them are content to either race or shoot ducks for sport—whatever strikes their fancy.

While the orders on how to proceed may come from Anne’s mouth, the thoughts behind them are not her own. Rather, they are the opinions and directives of Anne’s close friend and advisor Sarah (Rachel Weisz). Sarah knows that Anne is cognitively and temperamentally unfit to make such important life or death decisions, so she takes it upon herself to make them. As long as she has Anne’s ear, and as long as Anne is so easily manipulated, Sarah is comfortable with things exactly as they are.

This dynamic is thrown off with the arrival of Abigail (Emma Stone), Sarah’s cousin who has fallen on hard times. Abigail seeks out Sarah for employment. Sarah obliges by sticking the once proud and educated lady in with the kitchen staff, who think it’s funny to not tell a brand new hire the dangers of working with lye.

Luckily for Abigail, she’s an excellent herbalist and impresses the queen with a natural remedy for the queen’s gout—this disease being another sign of a rich and extravagant lifestyle. When Sarah decides she needs a break from the queen and all of her needs, the opportunistic Abigail swoops in and wins the queen’s favor.

“The Favourite” quickly becomes a contest between Sarah and Abigail to see which one of them will be the close advisor to the queen. Sarah contends that it will be her, since she has such a long and close history with Anne. But Abigail is cunning and has her own methods to get rid of Sarah and poison the queen’s thoughts about her. The fact that Anne is so simple to sway makes her a pawn in Sarah and Abigail’s game. It also makes her an innocent party in the proceedings, albeit due to being naïve, and by the end of “The Favourite,” after Anne and Sarah have treated each other so despicably, the only one worth giving a darn about.

Director Yorgos Lanthimos, never one to rely on convention, creates a unique visual style. Everything from the left and right justified type that denotes each chapter in the story, to the use of a fish eye lens to create a distorted look to what would otherwise be a mundane shot of a hallway, leads to a style that Lanthimos can claim as his own for this movie. Some may find it a bit too arty and self-indulgent. To me, the true self-indulgence is watching a queen with digestive issues eat cake until she vomits. Whoever served as Groom of the Stool under Queen Anne deserves a special honorary place in history. Buy it.

Also New This Week

Creed II

I regard “Creed II” not only as a sequel to the 2015 break away hit “Creed,” but also as a sequel to 1985’s “Rocky IV.” Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and Brigitte Nielsen all reprise their roles from the Reagan era classic. This time Ivan Drago (Lundgren) has a son named Viktor (Florian 'Big Nasty' Munteanu) whom he has trained for his entire life to be a boxing world champion. Now that Adonis Johnson (Michael B. Jordan), son of legendary boxer Apollo Creed, is the champ, the time is right to set up a match.

“Creed II” also fits in with the “Rocky” franchise with the story beats, which crib a bit from “Rocky II” and “Rocky III.” In “Creed II,” we see Adonis become more of a family man who learns to care about the other people in his life, much like Rocky Balboa (Stallone) in “Rocky II.” Then there’s the element of a boxer’s ego getting the better of him and the lessons learned from that. This is “Rocky III” and it happens to Adonis in “Creed II” as well.

While “Creed II” may not reinvent the wheel based on previous movies in the “Rocky” franchise, director Steven Caple Jr.’s movie has enough of a spin on it to make it feel like we haven’t exactly seen this movie before. The final conclusion—as in any and every “Rocky” movie--is an uplifting, crowd pleasing, show stopper. This one even gives us a call back to the hard lesson learned in “Rocky IV” about when to throw in the towel to stop a fight. It’s a brave move to reference a moment in another movie made 33 years before this one, but the payoff is guaranteed to choke up even the hardest-core of “Rocky” fans out there. Rent it.

More New Releases: “Instant Family,” about a couple who find themselves in over their heads when they adopt three children, starring Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne, and Octavia Spencer.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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