Love & Friendship revisits the 19th century of class in Great Britain. Filmmaker Whit Stillman leaves no sense of this elegant era -- covered throughout the Jane Austen reign of books and films -- uncaptured. Love & Friendship is an adaptation of young Jane Austenís novella Lady Susan, and Kate Beckinsale gives a brilliant portrayal of Lady Susan Vernon, the leading character.
These days Lady Susan is once again single but has endless ideas on how to snag a wealthy husband. She also has a plan to ensure her daughter Fredericaís (Morfydd Clark) future since the girl ran away from school. Lady Susan has garnered rumors among the society socialites about her flirtations with wealthy gentlemen. So she decides to visit Churchill, the elegant estate of her in-laws until the rumors have quieted down.
Although surprised by Lady Susanís unannounced visit, Catherine Vernon (Emma Greenwell) believes decorum must be followed, so she welcomes her sister-in-law. Itís not long before Frederica arrives and Lady Susanís mind overflows with ideas. After all, thereís Catherineís handsome brother, Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), the wealthy but clown-like Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett), and maybe another, the ďmarried chapĒ Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O'Mearain).
Lady Susan sets her goal on Reginald, but his family gets wind of what sheís scheming and hopes to end something before it begins. However, the beautiful, witty and admired by some Lady Susan could charm a snake from its owner.
Meanwhile Lady Susan manages to get Sir James Martin convinced he should marry Frederica. The shy, fearful girl does not feel anything for him, but her mother talks her into thinking itís a great idea.
Stillman earns high marks for an enjoyable, funny, and smart film that will appeal to anyone who ever picked up a Jane Austen book, fell in love with handsome men with big estates, or the beautiful wardrobe and magnificent hats of the era.
The humor in the film seems wonderfully placed, whether secretly slapping a knee at Lady Susanís genius of getting just what she wants, the hilarious mannerisms of Sir James Martin, or the hysterics of Jenn Murray portraying a jilted and broken hearted Lady Lucy Manwaring, which alone is almost worth the ticket price.
Along with enjoying the movieís characters and story, I also loved just taking in the scenery with its flattering cinematography by Richard Van Oosterhout, the beautiful costumes by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, the lovely music by Benjamin Esdraffo and great cast including Stephen Fry and ChloŽ Sevigny.
(Released by Roadside Attractions and rated "PG" for some thematic elements.)
Review also posted at www.reviewexpress.com.