Show name: Love and Friendship
Release date: 2016
Genre: Period drama
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Fry, Chloe Sevigny
Directed by: Whit Stillman
Length: 93 minutes
This costume drama film is based on the novel of letters Lady Susan by Jane Austen.
Lady Susan was an early work, a pastiche of the form used by LaClos, for example, in Dangerous Liaisons.
Jane Austen didn’t repeat the experience, but left it behind for a more modern style of novel.
The work itself is quite short and is often published in a single volume with the unfinished Sanditon and a novella called The Watsons.
Something of the feel of the novel of letters is retained in the film, as Kate Beckinsale (Lady Susan) and Chloe Sevigny (her best friend Mrs Johnson) are only able to meet occasionally.
Mr Johnson (Stephen Fry, drole as ever) forbids them to have any contact.
Like every other respectable man of sense, he is well aware of Lady Susan’s dangerous reputation.
Lady Susan’s own brother-in-law is taken in by her protestations of innocence and claims to be wronged by society, but his wife and her parents have no intention of succumbing to her charms.
Lady Susan has two main challenges, beyond managing her impoverished finances as a widow. She must keep her lover at bay without rejecting him too completely.
And she must find a wealthy husband for her beautiful daughter Frederica.
Young men of fortune and (occasionally) intelligence abound, and Lady Susan is determined to put her own happiness first. After all, if she doesn’t, who will?
As is often the case with English costume drama, Love and Friendship featured a stellar cast. I can’t see Chloe Sevigny without remembering her in American Horror Story seasons two (Asylum) and five (Hotel).
I’ve been a fan of Kate Beckinsale since Cold Comfort Farm, so I already knew she was great at comedy. Their scenes were pricelessly funny.
James Fleet and Jemma Redgrave play the parents of a young man besotted with Lady Susan.
Who can forget James Fleet in Four Weddings and a Funeral? My favourite role of his was in Sense and Sensibility, so we know that a good costume drama role really suits him.
I haven’t seen Jemma Redgrave since watching Howard’s End, where she acted alongside her aunt Vanessa. She was subtly funny there, so I was delighted to see her again here.
They produced a fantastic portrait of a longstanding married couple whose happiness is in danger of being destroyed forever by their son’s choice of wife.
There was so much dry wit in Love and Friendship, plus all the clever quips you’d expect from a novel-of-letters adaptation. Some great costumes and locations completed the experience, and I loved it.
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