Review: Love & Friendship, B
Rated PG, 92 minutes
Just when you thought you had seen every Jane Austen adaptation imaginable (especially after the recent mashup "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies"), comes the sly and funny "Love & Friendship," based on the obscure Austen novella "Lady Susan." From director and writer Whit Stillman of "Metropolitan" and "The Last Days of Disco" fame, the talky "Love & Friendship," is a well-acted arthouse romp filled with some delightful dialogue and fun moments. In the 18th century, the seductive and manipulative Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) uses devious tactics to win the heart of the eligible Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel). Stillman perfectly captures the essence and sensibilities of Austen's novella, with a fictional story taken from Austen's narrative, which is structured as written letters. As the irresistible widower looking for love in all the wrong ways, Beckinsale gives one of her strongest performances to date, and plays it with a tartfully straight face as Lady Susan goes from house to house as a guest in search of love, usually falling (and unlike other Austen lead females) for men much younger, including the oblivious De Courcy, played with sheepish appeal by Samuel. Also strong is newcomer Morfydd Clark as her longsuffering daughter, who desperately doesn't want to wed the dense but likable Sir James, played charmingly by British actor Tom Bennett and who will elicit the most laughs (best moment: learning that there were 10 Commandments instead of 12, "which 2 do we drop?"). "Love & Friendship" is primarily for those who thoroughly enjoy Austen or a good period comedy, given the heavy amount of dialogue, but the sets and costumes evoke the period well, the plot runs smoothly and efficiently (at only 92 minutes), and the affecting ending will please Austen enthusiasts as well. With a timely story, "Love & Friendship" succeeds mostly with a strong female character getting what she wants on her terms, despite what the world thinks of her, and that's something we should see more of. Worth a look especially for the lovely Beckinsale, who should take on more roles like this.