Based on a novella (Lady Susan) by Jane Austen, Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship is an impeccably made romantic comedy that will enchant Austen fans but may be less engaging for today’s average filmgoers.
Kate Beckinsale stars as Lady Susan Vernon, who, after the death of her husband, is looking to ensure that she and her daughter (Frederica, played by Morfydd Clark) find husbands who will look after their needs (especially financial needs). She moves in with her in-laws (Catherine, played by Emma Greenwell, and Charles, played by Justin Edwards), gets advice from her close friend Mrs. Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) and starts manipulating the lives of everyone around her in order to produce the best result for herself. Other major characters include Reginald DeCourcy (Catherine’s brother, played by Xavier Samuel) and Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett, who steals every scene he is in).
The acting is as impeccable as the cinematography and music, Stillman’s dialogue is cleverly written and often hilarious, and the entire film is marvellous fun to watch. Love & Friendship is definitely one of the best films of the year (head and shoulders above most of this century’s romantic comedies), but the story just isn’t emotionally engaging enough to make this one of my favourites. It deserves the **** many critics are giving it, but I’ll settle for a solid ***+. My mug is up and I recommend it to almost everyone.