Love & Friendship

 photo love_and_friendship_ver2_zpsddbpzlbk.jpg photo starrating-4stars.jpgLady Susan is a fairly obscure, early novel by Jane Austen written around 1794. Never submitted by the author in her lifetime, it was later published in 1871, well after her death.  Given that background, you might think this is inferior Jane Austen. Compared as written works to Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice, that is undoubtedly true. However as a production in the hands of Whit Stillman, it becomes a superlative rumination of Regency manners and mores.

Love & Friendship is a period piece that concerns the widowed Lady Susan Vernon. The woman is a bit of a coquette. She seeks a second marriage that will be beneficial for herself. She has set her sights on Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel). Meanwhile she attempts to push her less polished daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) into a relationship with wealthy idiot Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett). The central role is a most peculiar creature — a woman to despise for her scheming but also to admire for her perseverance. She possesses a societal reputation for flagrantly manipulating men regardless of marital status. The Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearain) has benefited from her company. In the hand of the beautiful Kate Beckinsale she is a devious flirt. The actress, all too often found in skin tight leather gear, gets a chance here to actually act and show her formidable talent. Her sister-in-law Catherine Vernon, as played by the excellent Emma Greenwell, sees through her charade while her brother-in-law Charles (Justin Edwards), does not.

Love & Friendship is a wonderfully crafted story that will charm Austen fans with its wit and sparkling wordplay. The script is a marvel with pleasantries and barbs doled out in equal measure. The individuals Jane encounters are sophisticated, educated and polite, but overly mannered to the point of being finicky, almost uptight.  Director Whit Stillman exploits an erudite segment of society that other filmmakers would relegate as side characters for comedy. Yet Stillman, like Woody Allen or Wes Anderson, brings them to the fore. He has such love for these people. Even when he is making fun of their foibles, there is a palpable admiration for their temperament as well. That makes his comedy less hostile and more satisfying. The age of Jane Austen is perfectly suited to Whit Stillman’s aesthetic. His The Last Days of Disco in 1998 was a period piece set in the 1970s.  Regrettably, the director has never made a costume drama from the 18th century until now. It’s about time he did. The era suits him to a T. Let’s hope he returns.

06-02-16

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21 Responses to “Love & Friendship”

  1. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I love this movie so much! You are exactly right in your praise. I laughed so hard at the dialogue and so much of what happens. Like I loved the scene with the peas! My favorite is when Lady Susan and Alicia Johnson (Chloë Sevigny) are together. They are perfect. I’m not sure if I loved this super much because I saw it same weekend as X-Men Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass which I both hated. Thank goodness for this or I might be very discouraged about movies!

    • It stands on its own merits, although those other movies you mentioned (especially Looking Glass) definitely pale in comparison. Love & Friendship is probably my 2nd favorite Indie of the year after Sing Street.

      2016 has been odd. I’ve mostly preferred Indie films to the major Hollywood releases this year. Zootopia is a notable exception.

  2. Argh you are so lucky! I want to see this so bad, and now even more after reading this. But it isn’t out here till July =/

    • You must be from Australia. That’s awesome!

      My site gets visited by people all over the world. As you might expect, I get the most traffic from the U.S., but I have readers from the UK, Canada, Russia, Australia, India, Brazil , Spain, Vietnam, Germany and more!

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

      • Heh, not really so awesome as I have to wait months for movies to come out. They often hit DVD before even getting to our theatres

        And people wonder why Australians download so many torrents…

      • You got Deadpool (a day or two before us). That’s something. 😉

      • Haha yeah its bizarre man, The Lobster came out here last freaking year and I’m only just now seeing reviews from other blogs

      • Well The Lobster isn’t an American film. It debuted at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2015. Then it had to find a distributor before it was released here. Took awhile before A24 took the risk, so to speak.

  3. I don’t normally like Stillman movies, nor do I like Jane Austen adaptations, but somehow, this one worked out wonderfully. Nice review Mark.

  4. Love a bit of Austen. I think I need to see this!

  5. Just ONCE I wish someone would call ME a wealthy idiot. I shall have to watch this. Excellently reviewed.

  6. I actually gave this 3 stars. Writing was clever, however, it did grab me. Found myself dozing a little. 2nd half was better.

  7. I love Jane Austen, and any period drama will get me excited, but I just couldn’t get into this film. I think Kate Beckinsale was a wonderful actress in Emma (1996) and her acting is a strong point of Love & Friendship, but the whole thing just felt too modern to me. I’m not sure if it was the setting, the costumes or the cast, but something felt very non-1700s and I quickly lost interest in the story. I managed to sit through the first 30 minutes before giving up and watching something else, but perhaps the book will keep me entertained for longer than its film counterpart! I think I’ve been spoiled by the adaptations of her other books and have come to expect nothing less than screen works of art.

  8. Love & Friendship doesn’t sound like my kind of movie at all, but you’ve done such a good job describing Whit Stillman’s craft, that you’ve actually got me interested. Well, that and I saw it make a NYT list of 7 indie movies that must be seen this year. Haha. Great review Mark.

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