In association with Glasgow Film Theatre
Love and Friendship is funny – in fact, it’s very funny. Whit Stillman’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s early epistolary narrative Lady Susan is a prime example of just how witty Austen can be, a fact usually lost in the Regency innocence that tends to epitomise most adaptations. Kate Beckinsale’s turn as the brilliantly devious and unscrupulous Lady Susan Vernon completes a surprisingly modern take on relationships, considering much of the crisp dialogue is sourced directly from Austen’s own novel.
The film begins with Lady Susan proudly removing herself from the house in which she has been conducting an affair with a married man – as a cunning widow saddled with a daughter whom she clearly dislikes and no immediate prospects, what else has she to do but aim for marriage? Her blatant flirtations and manipulations of men cause her to be later on characterised as ‘genius of the evil kind’ by her suffering sister-in-law.
Although Love and Friendship is, in effect, a romantic comedy, it suffers from none of the predictability or sentimentality that typically plagues the genre. Beckinsale excels as Lady Susan, and the implementation of her scheming machinations is genuinely enjoyable to watch, bettered only by Tom Bennett’s entertaining and entirely believable portrayal of the lovable idiot Sir James Martin. Although it is refreshing to see such a strong, completely immoral female character depicted on screen, the character’s continual performance is somewhat wearing by the end. The supporting characters (particularly Chloë Sevigny as Susan’s invariably collected American friend) could have been utilised more to develop their obvious potential. Stephen Fry makes a pleasing cameo as Sevigny’s husband: “too old to be governable and too young to die”.
Visually pleasing and impeccable in its execution, Love and Friendship successfully capitalises upon its contrived situations – almost farcical as the action proceeds to greater and more amusing heights – with admirable comic timing and acting from all involved. It manages to straddle the tricky line between too Austen and too modern with evident assurance and as a massive Jane Austen fan, that is an achievement I do not take lightly.
The film will be running at Glasgow Film Theatre from the 27th of May to the 9th of June.