Love and Friendship (aka Lady Susan) review by Adrijan Arsovski - Cinema Paradiso
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.