Love & Friendship

Film, Comedy
4 out of 5 stars
Love and Friendship

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Deliciously arch American filmmaker Whit Stillman proves a perfect match for this adaptation of a lesser-known Jane Austen novel

"If I loved you less," Jane Austen famously wrote in Emma, "I might be able to talk about it more." To judge from the spew of wall-to-wall chat in the witty, winning Love and Friendship, based on the author’s posthumously-published novel Lady Susan, love is hardly on the minds of these characters – least of all Susan (Kate Beckinsale), a high-born 18th-century schemer. Rather, it's money, advantage and perceived affront: Beckinsale lends an implied wink to her calculating character while talking the talk of a liberated widow who's still a magnet for male attention.

With an unpaid servant in tow, Susan arrives at the plush Churchill estate with the secret goal of wooing its young, handsome, impossibly rich scion, Reginald (Xavier Samuel), who falls for her immediately. But in an unrelated complication, Lady Susan's stressed-out teen daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark, captivatingly guileless), shows up too. Sensing a potential romantic rival in her own blood, our devious heroine begins to plot with her American friend in London, Alicia (Chloë Sevigny, whose ennui and flat delivery bring a welcome touch of seen-it-all modernity to the period piece).

You might need a map to follow all this, but Love and Friendship gains immeasurably from the humourous side-eye of its writer-director, Whit Stillman (Metropolitan). His caustic way with sealed wealthy worlds make him a perfect match for Austen, and he not only expands on her unfinished text (and reunites his chatty female co-stars from The Last Days of Disco) but finds a way to make his own droll voice speak in a vernacular hundreds of years old. Stillman's coup may be letting British actor Tom Bennett turn the minor character of Sir James into a comic feast of fatheadedness, particularly during a rambling monologue on the Twelve Commandments.

The story is a little slight compared to the grand romantic ache of Pride and Prejudice, but Beckinsale and Stillman do their inspiration proud: finally, here's a Jane Austen movie that's fresh and deliciously rotten at the same time. - Joshua Rothkopf


Release details

Release date:
Thursday July 21 2016
92 mins

Cast and crew

Whit Stillman
Whit Stillman
Kate Beckinsale
Chloë Sevigny
Stephen Fry
Xavier Samuel

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