Love & Friendship: Whit Stillman + Jane Austen = Pure Joy
Love & Friendship is the most refreshing film of 2016. Drawing inspiration from Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, writer-director Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco, Damsels in Distress) has created a wonderfully modern 18th century costume drama that will entertain everyone. Austen’s unpublished novella has been perfectly translated to the screen and it is the type of script where you hang on every word because most of them are brilliant. I had a permanent smile on my face as Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale = amazing) schemes her way through the polite society of upper crust England. Love & Friendship is the cheekiest film you will see all year and it will make you wish Kate Beckinsale escaped the Underworld series and embraced her comedic side more often.
We need more of this type of Beckinsale.
Love & Friendship revolves around a recently widowed woman named Lady Susan bouncing around her relatives homes and causing chaos. Susan is trying to marry off her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) to the rich suitor Sir James (Tom Bennett = hilarious) while trying to find a rich man for herself. She is aided by her American friend Alicia (Chloe Sevigny – reunited with Last Days of Disco costar Beckinsale) and the two attempt to manipulate everyone, cover their tracks and avoid being sent back to Connecticut.
Kate Beckinsale is an absolute delight and I hope she is remembered come awards time. She is so good it is annoying because she has either been terribly miscast by Hollywood or enjoys wiping out werewolves whilst wearing tight leather clothes. Her performance is a revelation and she is able to spout the rapid fire dialogue with ease while owning the room and confounding everyone around her. You can tell she loves the role and relishes every bit of the delicious dialogue.
What I love about Whit Stillman is that his personality always shines through his films. His films typically revolve around intelligent/weird people who argue and debate about random issues. In Love & Friendship, Stillman has found a perfect muse in Jane Austen. Austen wrote the novella when she was 19 and there is a capriciousness to the text as it unfolds unpredictably. Her characters are always interesting and there is a reason why Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility still work today. What I love most about Stillman’s adaptation is that it you get the sense of both artists in the work. It feels like she wrote the novella, didn’t publish it and knew some eclectic director could bring it to life in the future.
Watch Love & Friendship now! Don’t be afraid of the costume drama trappings. Embrace a modern take on an old story.