Love & Friendship
This tiny film defines why people like myself love movies.
Director Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship is one of the hidden gems to be released this year. Based on a short story by Jane Austen, it brings old England to life in a most irreverent fashion.
The movie focuses on a moment in the life of Lady Susan Vernon, marvelously played by Kate Beckinsale. A beautiful woman with a bad reputation, she is set on finding a wealthy husband for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and herself. She uses her sexuality in the same way John Wayne would use a six-shooter in an old American western.
Lady Susan is a woman who has mastered the art of seduction. Publicly dismissing her accusers with a flip of the wrist, she privately functions as a modern day heroin dealer who capitalizes on everyone else’s weaknesses.
Ms. Beckinsale shines in her role, and you are left applauding her triumph. She really has been given little to do on the big screen over the years, and I can only remember her stirring, provocative performance in the original Underworld (2003).
Additionally, Ms. Beckinsale is surrounded by a group of marvelous performances. Chloë Sevigny is pitch perfect as Lady Susan’s American friend Alice Johnson. In a golden moment, Susan comforts Alice by saying this about her arrogant husband (Stephen Fry), “Too old to be governable, and too young to die.”
Xavier Samuel plays Reginald DeCourcy, the handsome young heir to a fabulous fortune who quickly becomes fascinated by Susan. Little does he know of her intentions of finding a way to have her daughter fall into his arms.
Yet while all the supporting actors are good, Tom Bennett stands out as the vapid yet very funny Sir James Martin, a British goofball who intends on marrying Frederica. His flamboyant stupidity will leave you repeatedly laughing in your seat.
There have been a number of interesting takes on Ms. Austen’s novels, the latest being this year’s surprisingly clever Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The pleasure flowing from Love & Friendship centers on Lady Susan’s ability to use her venom to slice and dice the stuffy, aristocratic world surrounding her.
I can only urge you to see this film, as you are likely to relish every moment.