Posted by Jill Boniske aka Arty Chick on June 6, 2016
When you think of Jane Austen, you think of young women in dire straights IF they don’t marry well. You think of a constrained society and English estates where the rich lord it over those who may have come down in the world. Whit Stillman’s take on Austen’s unpublished novella “Lady Susan” that was written when she was just 14-years-old turns the usual Austen genteel society on its head. Love and Friendship‘s protagonist is a beautiful young widow who isn’t the least bit interested in following the dictates of the day and is happy to play her many suitors to her advantage. Played with deep dark humor by Kate Beckinsale, Lady Susan Vernon may be lacking in funds, but she more than makes up for it with her cunning and wit. She’s determined to land herself a rich husband and one for her daughter, too. In any other Austen novel, she’d be the one who is destined to fail, because she is so transparently gold-digging, but here she cannot lose.
After a scandal involving her seduction a friend’s husband, she retreats to her dead husband’s brother’s estate where she just happens to find a new suitor, the handsome, younger brother of her sister-in-law, Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel). Also trailing in her wake is the totally silly but very rich Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) who she hopes to marry off to her daughter. And Lady Susan has a “secret” conspirator/confidante in her American friend Alicia Johnson (Chloë Sevigny) who is also married to a rich man who has forbidden her to see the scandalous Lady Susan, threatening to send her on a slow, cold boat back to Connecticut! But through it all Lady Susan expertly juggles her men and her manipulations, and ultimately she gets just what she wants.
Whit Stillman’s script is unusually comedic for an Austin adaptation and keeps the story moving very quickly. I happen to like the usual languid storytelling in most Austen films and television series, but Love and Friendship is a very different and fun take on it. In the hands of a different actress who wasn’t able to convey the intelligence behind this strong, sexy woman, I don’t think it would work. Beckinsale is really perfect in the role. And the dialogue is wickedly funny. See it in a theater if you can. It is beautifully shot.
Mainstream Chick weighed in on it in her own post. (Click here)