Synopsis: Lady Susan Vernon takes up temporary residence at her in-laws’ estate and, while there, is determined to be a matchmaker for her daughter Frederica — and herself too, naturally.
Release Date: May 20, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Romance
After the debacle that turned her novel Pride and Prejudice into the horror film Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, writer Jane Austen thought that she needed to get back to more honest interpretations of her stories. Or, at least, she would have thought that if she hadn’t died two hundred years ago. Nevertheless, Love & Friendship is a much more traditional adaptation of the influential author’s work.
Love & Friendship stars Kate Beckinsale (the Underworld movies) as Lady Susan Vernon, a widow who runs off to stay with her in-laws, Charles and Catherine Vernon (Justin Edwards from “Sorry, I’ve Got No Head” and Emma Greenwell from “Shameless”), when rumors of her indiscretions at home start to circulate. Lady Susan can’t outrun trouble, however; she immediately attracts the attention of Catherine’s brother, Reginald DeCourcy (Fury‘s Xavier Samuel), who sets his sights on courting her. Although she loves the attention, Susan has little time for Reginald, as she has also been flirting with a married man named Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearáin from “Ros na Rún”). Susan’s situation gets even more jumbled when her daughter, Frederica (The Falling‘s Morfydd Clark), shows up after running away from boarding school, and her suitor, a young man named Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett from “PhoneShop”), follows her, only to wind up smitten with Susan as well. Susan turns to her American expat confidant Alicia (American Psycho‘s Chloë Sevigny) to help talks her through her problems, even though she seems to be relishing in all of the attention.
Director Whit Stillman (The Last Days of Disco) adapted Love & Friendship from Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan (but borrowed the title from a different Austen work, the intentionally misspelled Love & Freindship). It’s more light-hearted than most of Austen’s work, and Stillman plays up the whimsical humor, so it’s a fairly accessible adaptation. It’s still very wordy and long winded, with about ninety percent (if not more) of the exposition delivered through the dialogue. Thus, the story unfolds like a stage play, with a lot of walking and talking amongst the characters. It’s all very Jane Austen-y.
Of course, Love & Friendship is a period movie set in 18th century England, and that fact will probably turn some viewers off. Sure, the language is a little “proper” for the modern American ear, but the film’s dialogue is much more tolerable than that of, say, Sense & Sensibility or Pride & Prejudice. As a cinematic experience, Stillman has Love & Friendship firing on all cylinders – the locations, costuming, cinematography, and music are all great. The acting is a little hit and miss – Beckinsale charmingly and devilishly carries the movie, while Sevigny is distractingly bad as the sole American (she’s supposed to sound less-British than the rest of the cast, but her speech patterns are “Californian” when her character is from Connecticut) – but there’s more to like about the movie than there is to not like.
The bottom line is that Jane Austen movies have a built-in audience, and that audience will enjoy Love & Friendship. But there’s also a crossover appeal to the movie that should bring in average Joes as well. Love & Friendship will appeal to literati and illiterates alike.
There’s quite a bit of humor in Love & Friendship. Because the movie is mostly dialogue, the comedy is all based upon verbal witticisms. For example, the Vernons’ estate is known as Churchill Castle, and whenever characters approach, there is a running gag about it “neither being a church nor on a hill.” The language is all period-correct, so the laughs do take a little effort to understand, but that only makes them more rewarding in the end. The comedy in Love & Friendship is a clever combination of the highbrow and the madcap.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Whit Stillman
- Producer(s): Lauranne BourrachotKatie HollyWhit Stillman
- Screenwriter(s): Jane AustenWhit Stillman
- Cast: Kate Beckinsale (Lady Susan Vernon)Chloë Sevigny (Alicia Johnson)Morfydd Clark (Frederica Vernon) Tom Bennett (Sir James Martin)Jenn Murray (Lady Lucy Manwaring)Lochlann O’Mearáin (Lord Manwaring)Sophie Radermacher (Miss Maria Manwaring)Xavier Samuel (Reginald DeCourcy)Emma Greenwell (Catherine DeCourcy Vernon)Justin Edwards (Charles Vernon)Jemma Redgrave (Lady DeCourcy)James Fleet (Sir Reginald DeCourcy)
- Editor(s): Sophie Corra
- Cinematographer: Richard Van Oosterhout
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh
- Casting Director(s): Kerry BardenColin JonesPaul Schnee
- Music Score: Benjamin Esdraffo
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USAIreland