I'm not sure what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting this eccentric, oddball and strangely comedic exploration of part of the life of Queen Anne and her court in the early Nineteenth century. England is at war with France and the English armies are led by Lord Salisbury (Mark Gatiss). Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) abuses her position as the Queen's confidant and lover, to control the Queen through reinforcing her lack of self-worth and playing on her ailing health.
The life of court is characterised by duck racing, pineapple eating, a naked MP being pelted with pomegranates, formal dinners and constant squabbling between the government and opposition. Life at Hampton Court Palace carries on seemingly unaffected by the country's impending bankruptcy, the threat of defeat to the French and the indulgence of egos as courtiers jockey for places of influence. Two hundred years on and it all sounds depressingly familiar!
Here we have a film where the three lead characters are female - and none of them come out of it having ingratiated themselves with the audience! However, the strength of their performances are worthy of the accolades and awards already received and I'm sure that they will collect more as the awards season rolls on.
The arrival of Sarah's cousin, Abigail (Emma Stone) is the catalyst for a battle to see which of them will triumph as the Queen's favourite. The depths to which they are prepared to descend to achieve their goal are staggering. The lies, deceit, opportunism and lust for power which characterises this menage-a-trois is consistent with the gluttony and depravity that appears to have entrapped all of the characters in this film. I'm so glad I'm living in these times - not from any sense of evolved superiority or sophistication, but simply because I don't think I could have coped!
The film portrays an ongoing preoccupation with sex but virtually no real intimacy. The scenes with Lady Sarah in a brothel are menacingly disturbing. The irrational and petulant behaviour of the Queen for me became cumulatively tedious. The never ending resolve of Lady Abigail to be seen as the caring and selfless servant whilst deceitfully scheming and plotting her adversaries downfall was unpleasant.
Did I enjoy this film? No. Am I glad I saw it? Yes. Do I want to see it again? No. It is in many ways a strange film that provoked, and still provokes, strange reactions. It's structure and the way it was shot is different - perhaps intended to be an attempt to guess how they would have made feature films 200 years ago. If you stay to watch the credits, they will drive you wild too! I really am at a loss to give this film a rating. For the acting a 9/10. For how it's left me feeling, perhaps a 3/10 is being generous!