Beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) arrives at the estate of her in-laws to wait out the colourful rumours of her dalliances which are circulating through polite society. While ensconced there, she attracts the simultaneous attentions of the young, handsome Reginald DeCourcy, the rich and naive Sir James Martin and the divinely attractive, but married, Lord Manwaring. However, cunningly engineering such matters for her own benefit is something Lady Susan is quite used to. Based on the Jane Austen novella 'Lady Susan' and set in the high society of the 1790s, acclaimed writer-director Whit Stillman's 'Love and Friendship' is an exquisitely witty and devious comedy of Machiavellian matchmaking and heartbreaking, with a note-perfect ensemble cast including Chloe Sevigny and Stephen Fry.
A New, and Different, Jane Austen
- Love and Friendship review by MD
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You rated this film: 4
Just when you thought it impossible that any further ORIGINAL Jane Austen work could be put on celluloid, this turns up. And not only is it new, it's also very different.
Okay, so the period setting is the same, and the recognisable Austen characters are not too far away, but both the story itself and the manner of telling it are far from what we have come to expect of Austen adaptations. This is a fast-paced tale, full of almost soap opera-like content, which focuses on a leading lady who is anything but an Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Woodhouse. In fact, she's a bitch. And a brilliantly played one, too, the surprising casting of Kate Beckinsdale working a treat.
I loved the script, which is both literate and very witty, and the fact that even the more minor characters are given reasonable roles makes for a satisfyingly complete experience, all the more so because many of them, and the situations they find themselves in, are still very relevant to our world today.
Of course, it will not be to everyone's taste, but I think both Austen fans and those new to her work can find a great deal to admire and enjoy in this refreshing 'update' to her filmed works.
Period peace of worth
- Love and Friendship review by jw
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You rated this film: 5
Ever since BBC's Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, I've followed many period pieces wth my tongue hanging out. Eager to revisit the hankering I had for P and P. This film is the most satisfying since. I don't know how the makers do it, but it works for me.
Mr. Whit Stillman may not be known for his prolific tendencies in regards to directing movies, but given quality beats quantity any time of the day – perhaps this would end up for the best of everyone involved. Hi latest spell dubbed Love & Friendship screams quality of the highest order, which is only logical insofar Jane Austen adaptations go. Also, Whit Stillman may not be famous for producing cinematic masterpieces, but sure as hell he can direct good dialogue whenever necessary. What I’m trying to say is that Love & Friendship is a very good and unique movie-going experience that will leave you wanting for more.
Let’s not kid ourselves: Kate Beckinsale rocks. Her performance as Lady Susan Vernon oscillates somewhere between a 1700’s period diva and a witty chat-chitter whose unquenchable thirst for gossip puts her right there with the masters of old, like Madam Bovary for example. This comparison is not without precedence, for one thing Beckinsale excels at in Love & Friendship is tittle-tattle in its purest form – thus providing plenty of material for both flamboyant men and women to enjoy.
The supporting cast in nothing short of extraordinary. Stephen Fry packs just the right amount of snazzy to not become overly intrusive (as he is usually remembered for), and Chloe Sevigny portraying Alicia Johnson comes off as extremely confident and capable lady who knows what she wants from life, which you correctly guessed is more suitors to appease to her romantic needs and desires.
Worthy of mention is also how Love & Friendship works on many levels: first as a period piece with accurate clothing choices and historical accuracies; second, as a spoof of the same period piece it boldly encourages; and third, as a standout feature that holds its own ground.
Since this is a film mostly centered on women and their take on life, the men characters come as quite a surprise when all things are taken into consideration. Reginald DeCourcy, the alias behind actor Xavier Samuel, is a young nobleman who is almost clueless toward Susan’s advances. Tom Bennett however steals the show as the cocky Sir James Martin who stops at nothing to get what he wants.
Notice how I mostly wrote on characters, and this is by no means a mere coincidence. Since Jane Austen can conjure best how people interact, feel and do - Love & Friendship perfectly translates all of that and more on screen. Sure, the period elements are all there, but they exist only to add to an otherwise perfect story driven forward by pure intellectual wit.
It’d be truly a shame if you miss Whit Stillman’s masterpiece.