Love & Friendship
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Love and Friendship is a take on Jane Austen's epistolary novella Lady Susan. The film, by Whit Stillman, stars Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon, a recent widow mooching off the kindness of her relatives and friends and gobbling up any eligible man she can find. All this while trying to figure out what to do with her teenage daughter who simply refuses to behave.
I enjoyed this movie once I got into it. I didn't quite remember the beginning but I did remember most of the rest. They added a new ending after Austen's story ends. I didn't think the ending sounded true for the character. Lady Susan is anything but stupid so I don't think she would have revealed what she did when she did. The other big change was to Sir James Martin who is turned into a complete simpleton, much more the fool than Jane Austen intended him to be. The rest of the plot is largely what I can remember from the novella.
The acting was mostly good. Kate Beckinsale, an Austen veteran, plays Lady Susan with just enough humor to make her seem sort of likable... sort of... Lady Susan is an anti-heroine, one people will not want to root for. I feel some degree of sympathy for her because she is a widow with no money and the only way to get money if you were a Georgian woman was to marry it. Her conduct toward Frederica, on the other hand, will not win her any "Mother of the Year" awards.
Morfydd Clark plays Frederica to perfection. She's a bit more plain than I pictured Frederica. I don't think Lady Susan would have a plain daughter. Her acting was great. She played Frederica as sweet, shy and a bit timid but when surrounded by people who love her, she comes out of her shell.
Tom Bennett was a hoot as Sir James Martin, the dim witted suitor of Frederica Vernon.
On the bad side of acting was Xavier Samuel as Reginald DeCourcy. He was dull to the extreme. His delivery was flat and dispassionate.
On the female side, Chloë Sevigny, as Alicia Johnson, Lady Susan's American friend, is pretty bland. Honorable mention goes to Sophie Radermacher was way over the top as Maria Manwaring. She portrayed Maria as a woman a bit unhinged and on the verge of madness. I don't remember that from the book.
The real stand out are the costumes! They are so gorgeous! The styles look pretty accurate for the Georgian period. The costumes tell a story about the characters. I noticed Frederica stayed in mourning the longest. Lady Susan's colors go from deep mourning, to half mourning, to WOW! I especially liked Frederica's pale yellow chemise dress.
Also amazing are the historic homes in Ireland that serve as the sets. I tried to spot anachronisms and the only one I think I saw was a framed Ackerman's fashion print but it was hard to tell.
I'd like to think Jane Austen would be pleased with this adaptation of her novella.