Director: Whit Stillman
Duration: 90 minutes
Love & Friendship (DVD) – Movie Review
Love & Friendship is a film based on the character Lady Susan, invented by Jane Austen. Austen is of course most known for her novels Sense & Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice and Emma, but in an untitled manuscript, she wrote down a story about Lady Susan and her friend Alicia, be it unfinished, and in the form of letters. A great angle to start from, Whit Stillman must have thought, and thus he created Love & Friendship. We were definitely interested to see how he made this unknown and unfinished Austen manuscript his own.
Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) has only recently become a widow, but with her late husband’s money all spent, she turns to her family for a place to stay for her and her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark). They stayed for a while with Lord (Lochlann O’Mearain) and Lady Manwaring (Jenn Murray), but due to circumstances Lady Susan may or may not have inflicted herself (Lord Manwaring is such a handsome man, you know), she decides it’s best to no longer take advantage of their hospitality. Instead, she moves to Churchill, to live with her late husband’s brother Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) and his wife Catherine (Emma Greenwell), while her daughter is away to boarding school.
Also Catherine’s brother Reginald (Xavier Samuel) is staying at Churchill, and he’s not too stoked about Lady Susan being there as well, because her reputation of being a woman who can make every man (especially the rich and handsome ones) fall in love with her, well exceeds her. It doesn’t take long though before she winds him around her finger as well.
Not only is she trying to find a suitable match for herself, she is also looking for a good match for her daughter. Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) seems to be a perfect match as he is wealthy and willing to marry Frederica. There’s only one catch: the man is extremely silly, reason enough for Frederica to refuse him. Lady Susan doesn’t give up hope yet though, as a wealthy husband for her daughter wouldn’t harm herself either. Proof that she’s a cunning woman, and her American friend Alicia (Chloë Sevigny) only encourages her in all the sneaky plans she makes.
The story of this film moves at quite a fast pace, which is due to several decisions the director Whit Stillman made. The first thing that’s very noticeable is that all characters are introduced not throughout the story, but beforehand, with stills and a little witty text that tells you something about their personality and relationships. This of course immediately defines the way you look towards the characters, but it also boosts the flow quite a bit, as there is no real character introduction needed anymore. It is quite an unusual way to start off a movie, and while we were a bit skeptical about how it would influence the film, it actually turned out all right. Stillman also uses a lot of conversation between the characters, which helps to move the story forward as well.
Kate Beckinsale puts down a terrific acting performance as Lady Susan. The cunning, smart, beautiful lady isn’t an easy role to play, yet we really enjoyed watching her. Also Chloë Sevigny was perfectly cast for her role as her coldhearted American friend. Overall, we liked all acting performances quite well, even though Morfydd Clark wasn’t always very convincing in her role as Frederica.
The first extra feature on this release is an interview with Whit Stillman in which he explains how he went from Jane Austen’s manuscript, which is only a bundle of letters, to his Love & Friendship. Next to this, you’ll also be able to enjoy a making of. Even though the extras aren’t numerous, they are quite interesting and definitely worth checking out.
Love & Friendship tells an interesting story about a Jane Austen character that is very little known. Whit Stillman did a great job in making Lady Susan his own, without throwing Austen’s original character overboard. The filmography is very different from what you’ll usually see, yet doesn’t hamper the story, and while there are only a few extras, they are certainly worth the watch. Overall, we were very pleased with this story and definitely had a fun time watching it.