Love & Friendship – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

July 14, 2016 by Roz Tarszisz
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It’s interesting that non- British directors consistently produce fine British costume dramas.

Is it the behavioural strictures that make a bonnet and bosom romp so attractive? Whatever the attractions, American director/writer Whit Stillman (Metropolitan) enters the late 18th century and instils his own sensibilities firmly on it.
Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is the centre of this witty tale of duplicity, adapted from an early Jane Austen novella. She is an impoverished but merry widow who, while she relies on the hospitality of others for a roof over her head, regally sweeps in and takes over wherever she lands. When the story opens in a flurry of activity, she has been thrown out of one stately home after possible improprieties with its master, Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearain).

Beckinsale is delightful and plays the part of a femme fatale to the hilt. Even after viewing her behaving outrageously, we can appreciate her reasons for doing so. She is adept at turning any situation to her advantage, manipulating all around her.  Impoverished, she needs to remarry and also marry off her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and encourages Frederica’s admirer,  wealthy Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) for this purpose. He must be the dumbest man ever to grace an elegant drawing room and, understandably, young Frederica does not wish to marry him.

As with such period dramas – Lady Vernon’s hats are actually too sumptuous to describe as bonnets – the clothes and settings are evocative of the eraHer close friend and confidant, Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny), is an American married to the much older, pompous Mr Johnson (Stephen Fry) who forbids their friendship and threatens to return his wife to Connecticut if she continues the connection.

Handsome young Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) complicates our heroine’s machinations but the skill with which she achieves her goals is a complete bit of devilry.  It may be froth in fancy dress, but ‘tis great fun.  Lady Susan Vernon is cast in the same mould as another literary vixen, Becky Sharp, but her talons are even sharper.  You wouldn’t want to be standing in her way but a ringside seat is pure escapism.

4/5 Released July 21   Rated PG 2016 92mins

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Chloe Sevigny, Stephen Fry

Directed by Whit Stillman

Screenplay by Whit Stillman, based on the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Cinematography by Richard Van Oosterhout

 

 

Comments

One Response to “Love & Friendship – a movie review by Roz Tarszisz”
  1. Janet Neustein says:

    Lovely review, thanks Roz.

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