Lots to Love about Still­man’s pe­riod com­edy

Jane Austen story is bril­liantly told

7 Days in Dubai - - ENTERTAINMENT - chris.fraser@7days.ae

A n 18th cen­tury pe­riod drama might not be the kind of film as­so­ci­ated with laughs. But Whit Still­man’s Love & Friend­ship is packed with laugh out loud mo­ments and com­edy.

The movie fol­lows beau­ti­ful widow Lady Su­san Ver­non (played by Kate Beck­in­sale), as she at­tempts to make a fresh start for her­self and her daugh­ter, while tak­ing up a tem­po­rary res­i­dence with her in-laws.

The story it­self is based on a lesser known Jane Austen novel Lady Su­san.

From the with­er­ing put downs is­sued by Lady Su­san her­self through to the gossip and hearsay of the 18th cen­tury so­ci­ety draw­ing rooms, fea­tur­ing ac­tors such as Chloe Se­vi­gny, Stephen Fry and Tom Bennet, it’s hi­lar­i­ous.

Writer-di­rec­tor Still­man, Os­car nom­i­nated back in 1990 for his self­penned movie Metropoli­tan, may have had some say in the script but he is quick to praise the source ma­te­rial.

Talk­ing to 7DAYS from New York, he said: “I added some of the lines from my own ex­pe­ri­ence but I think some of the best lines Jane Austen ever wrote were in this novella.

It was re­ally fun to work with this ma­te­rial, it didn’t have all the weight or the pres­tige of her mas­ter­pieces, so I had the free­dom to move things around.

“At the same time, I had very funny lines and very funny ma­te­rial at my dis­posal and when I first read it I thought she was chan­nel­ing Os­car Wilde. “It seemed like some­thing he would have writ­ten.” Lady Su­san, writ­ten in the late 18th cen­tury but not pub­lished un­til 1871, was an epis­to­lary novel: in short, it was writ­ten as a se­ries of doc­u­ments. This, rather than the lan­guage, was the only prob­lem that Still­man en­coun­tered. He ended up cre­at­ing char­ac­ters such as Mrs Cross, Lady Su­san’s friend, as a de­vice to move the di­a­logue and story along. “It was re­ally in­ter­est­ing be­cause in our modern day films, there are con­ver­sa­tions be­tween peo­ple so you have to find some way for peo­ple to be near each other phys­i­cally. But in the epis­to­lary style, you have to find a way for ev­ery­one to be far apart – hence the letters. That be­came a trau­matic prob­lem. Ev­ery­one was ob­vi­ously sep­a­rate in the ma­te­rial so I had to find a way of bring­ing peo­ple close phys­i­cally.” The movie is out and the crit­ics are lap­ping it up. But Still­man is not en­tirely done with the project. The 64-year-old, who is all set to re­visit a project about ex­pa­tri­ates for a se­ries on Ama­zon, also wrote a ‘novel’ of Love & Friend­ship. He ex­plains: “It is fin­ished al­ready and has been pub­lished by Jane Austen’s last pub­lisher John Mur­ray Press. So we are tied into the past and I hope they do as good a job for me as they did for Jane. Al­though I was ter­ri­fied of it, I en­joyed it.”

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