Saturday, June 4, 2016

Love & Friendship: Movie Review


Quick and funny romp through Jane Austen’s English countryside.
Love & Friendship is both a Whit Stillman movie and a Jane Austen movie. And while credit-wise, that seems like a rather matter-of-fact statement, it’s actually the marriage of the two that makes it the movie it is. Stillman is known for his deliciously witty dialogue; modern characters that can muse on about life. Whereas Austen movies are postcards from a by-gone era with easily digestible plots of romance and fortune. 2016

Directed by: Whit Stillman

Screenplay by: Whit Stillman
Based on novella by Jane Austen

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Emma Greenwell, and Xavier Samuel

Love & Friendship is both an 1800s-set story of finding love and maintaining familial relationships, and a very funny tale with quick wit about characters (or a specific character) wreaking havoc on the lives around them.

Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale in Whit Stillman's LOVE & FRIENDSHIP.
Photo credit: Ross McDonnell, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions.
Kate Beckinsale is the Lady Susan, the central character scheming her way through society. She’s a widow, but one who couldn’t be less distraught by the loss if she tried. She hit the jackpot of old and rich – old enough that he dies soon enough. Beckinsale was able to add just a hint of warmth to the character to make her a bit more interesting than just her deceipt and web of cruel selfishness. But I would prefer to concentrate on the characters around her – the lives of whom she wreaked havoc upon.

Lady Susan invites herself to live at her sister-in-law’s house – because they’re family! But of course, Susan’s real reasons, are because she has spent all of her late husband’s money and needs a place to live, and needs a new husband. Emma Greenwell plays host Catherine DeCourcy Vernon with the right mix of graciousness and caution. But Lady Susan has her eyes on Catherine’s younger brother Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel).

Emma Greenwell and Xavier Samuel in Whit Stillman's LOVE & FRIENDSHIP.
Photo credit: Bernard Walsh, Courtesy of Amazon Studios and Roadside Attractions
Xavier Samuel is the perfect leading man. Reginald is handsome, a well-read man, who respects family, respects honesty, and has a good-natured curiousity about him. Most of this means quite simply that he would detest Susan, but he doesn’t. He’s shocked by her, intrigued by her, and drawn to her. And one more great character is going down an hilariously bad rabbit hole.

Lady Susan has a daughter – Frederica Vernon (Morfydd Clark). Frederica is supposed to be at boarding school, despite the fact that Susan can’t afford it, but finds her way to Churchill. And with her arrival, introduces the man that Susan has decided Frederica will marry. Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) is a dimwit; a man so stupid that everyone but Susan can easily see his intellectual deficiencies. But the best part of Bennett’s performance as James Martin is that he makes his stupidity endearing, not annoying and especially not contemptible. But he’s also not exactly marriage material, especially for the relatively sane, upstanding members of society.

Love & Friendship is a quick, funny romp through the 1800s English countryside complete with gorgeous cinematography, costumes and production design, as well as hilariously poor-intentioned individuals, and those at the receiving end of those poor intentions.