Directed by Whit Stillman
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Justin Edwards, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, James Fleet, Jenn Murray, Stephen Fry and Kelly Campbell
In UK Cinemas May 27th, 2016
by Joanna Orland
The pairing of director Whit Stillman and author Jane Austen makes perfect sense. I first witnessed Stillman’s distinct style in Damsels In Distress – a film with themes reminiscent of Heathers or Mean Girls, but with a unique flow of dialogue making it feel of a different era. This missing era has clearly been that of Regency as Love & Friendship thrives as a comedic and romantic tale using the seamless combination of Jane Austen’s story ideas and Whit Stillman’s use of language. The pairing of Stillman and Austen feels as though it has been a long-time-coming.
Based on Austen’s novella Lady Susan, Love & Friendship is the tale of Lady Susan, a manipulative widow who values money over all. Defining himself as the king of the comedy of manners, Stillman infuses Austen’s short story with delightful characters in ridiculous situations, all centred around Lady Susan’s socially abhorrent behaviour.
Kate Beckinsale is Lady Susan, the finest role of her career. Never stunted in her delivery, Beckinsale seems to have so much fun with the self-absorbed Lady that she almost gives subtle knowing winks to the audience who are lapping it up throughout.
The supporting cast is as equally playful with Chloe Sevigny as her American confidant Alicia Johnson, Stephen Fry in a small role as Mr. Johnson, Xavier Samuel as a handsome love interest for Susan and her daughter, and notably Tom Bennett in the breakout role of Sir James Martin. Bennett’s performance as the dimwitted and rich Sir James is so on the mark and comedically refined, the audience is in true hysterics at his every appearance. Never has a work of Austen been so playfully tear-inducing.
Together, Austen and Stillman enhance each other’s strengths to produce a marvelously witty and genuinely funny Regency story of Love & Friendship.