When news broke that there was to be a new Jane Austen adaptation, containing my fangirl excitement wasn’t a possibility. This particular adaptation imagines how Austen’s little-known novella, Lady Susan, should be told on a larger stage.
Love and Friendship (2016) Film Review
Scandal is what Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) does best. She leaves a string of broken hearts, and colors outside the lines of propriety. Or so the gossip says. But the facts remain Lady Susan does leave her prior residence in the wake of scandal. Through it all is her good friend and confident Alicia (Chloë Sevigny), a woman who married for money, of course; and her reluctant, shy daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark).
After placing her daughter in a boarding school, Lady Susan relocates to her brother’s estate for a period of time. While living among their society she begins the chase anew with the much younger, Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel). Complications beyond Lady Susan’s schemes arise when her daughter arrives, bringing with her a precipitously rebellious heart.‘LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP’ (2016) – Austen’s Novella ‘Lady Susan’ is Adapted #FWarchives #PeriodDrama Click To Tweet
After months of excitement and waiting, I finally saw this (at the time a month or better past its home entertainment release). It’s with regret that I have to report, Love and Friendship isn’t up to the task of exceptional Austen adaptations. Wit Stillman is at the helm in a style that isn’t quite what I expect which completely threw me. As a Georgian film, this steps away from Austen’s usual comfort zone of Regency era, which I do love. It puts an entirely new spin on an Austen film with a new sense of freedom (and playful fun). Sadly, this freedom is all well and good for many reasons, but the style in which this is shot is not one of them.
Something about the filming feels “off” and quite simply, awkward. What it is I cannot place my finger on, but it’s there. As I sat down to write this review after weeks of pondering the story, I found I couldn’t remember a great deal about it. This gave me pause. To me, this says this isn’t a terribly memorable (for me) story, and that made me sad. This inspired a bit of “refresher” Google search, and I did see reminders of who everyone was if not entirely the conclusions of each story.
The story is said to be an epistolary one which is part of the reason the film undertakes these stylings. As is the usual Austen style, the characters have flair and personality like none other. This leads me to the actors. Everyone is top of the line. From the supporting cast brimming with new talent to Chloë Sevigny, everyone puts their best foot forward. Although none surpass Kate Beckinsale, who is wickedly good in her role as the (mostly) unlikable, Lady Susan. No stranger to period pieces, Beckinsale was able to tap into some of her Emma Woodhouse (from A&E’s Emma) characteristics with this role. What works so well is that she, somehow, makes us like her. Just a little bit.
If you’re a fan of zany period drama that isn’t afraid to poke fun at society or its players, then Love & Friendship is a darn good time. It’s got the usual “wicked” sense of humor we know from Austen adaptations, but the cast goes a long way in endearing this.
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You can find Love and Friendship digitally on Amazon Video