LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
Director: Whit Stillman (Metropolitan) Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Morfydd Clark, Emma Greenwell, Justin Edwards, Stephen Fry, Chloe Sevigny. Verdict: Anything but plain Jane
FROM one of Jane Austen’s lesserknown works – the posthumously published novella Lady Susan – springs one of the finest Austen movie adaptations on record.
It is not that Love and Friendship merely dares to be different. Courtesy of an uncharacteristically unlovable and cheerfully dishonourable lead character, this witty and wry movie is both daring and different by default.
It is the turn of the 19th century, and the self-styled “most accomplished flirt in all of England” is looking for a new man to tease, seduce and, if so decreed by her bank balance, marry.
Lady Susan Vernon (a magnificent Kate Beckinsale) is a young-ish widow who loves the good things in life, and has the badly behaved inclinations to get her hands on them as needed.
A man with money, a title, or both, is merely something to be manipulated for extended periods of shelter, or brief moments of pleasure.
As Love and Friendship begins, Lady Susan is on the rebound from Love and Friendship.
a doomed dalliance with a dashing married man, Lord Mainwaring (Lochlann O’Mearain).
While she plots her next move, Lady Susan takes up residence at Churchill, the country estate of her obliviously supportive brother-inlaw Charles (Justin Edwards) and his justifiably suspicious wife Catherine (Emma Greenhill).
It isn’t long before Susan detects a worthwhile matrimonial move might be made on Catherine’s naive younger brother Sir Reginald (Xavier Samuel).
As insurance, should her captivating charm fail her, Susan also has a daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark), ready to be lucratively wedded to the next eligible nitwit who may come along.
One of Frederica’s potential suitors, Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett), fits the bill perfectly. This gent’s persistent idiocy in the face of reason becomes one of the film’s many highlights, and provides a crucial counterbalance to Lady Susan’s relentlessly cynical manoeuvres.
As you may have gathered by now, Love and Friendship is a busily plotted affair which picks up characters and puts them down (and oh, how caustically does Lady Susan put them down) at a remarkably cracking pace for a period-era farce.