Based on the Jane Austen novella ‘Lady Susan’ and set in the 1790s, earlier than most Austen tales, Whit Stillman’s comedy of matchmaking and heart-breaking Love and Friendship concerns beautiful young widow Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale). The deliciously scheming and manipulative Lady Susan has come to Churchill, the estate of her in-laws, to wait out the colourful rumours about her dalliances circulating through polite society.

Whilst ensconced there, she decides to secure a husband for herself and a future for her eligible but reluctant daughter, Frederica. In doing so she attracts the simultaneous attentions of the young, handsome Reginald DeCourcy, the rich and silly Sir James Martin and the divinely handsome, but married, Lord Manwaring, complicating matters severely.

The waters are troubled by the arrival at Churchill of the handsome, eligible Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) and silly but cheerful - and very rich - Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett).

Chloe Sevigny, who starred with Beckinsale in Whit Stillman's The Last Days of Disco (1998) plays Lady Susan’s friend and confidante Alicia Johnson, with Stephen Fry as her husband, the "very respectable" Mr. Johnson.


Review

Whit Stillman makes a triumphant return to form (following the slight and disappointing Damsels in Distress) with this delightfully arch and witty adaptation of Jane Austen's Lady Susan.

Stillman has always excelled in the genre of the comedy of manners and social mores (should anyone need convincing check out Metropolitan and Barcelona) and finds a perfect match with Austen here. Bringing out a more acidic tone than we've usually come to expect from previous adaptations of the writer's work.

Kate Beckinsale jumps at the chance of playing the almost entirely irredeemable Lady Susan after a run of increasingly uninspired leather clad appearances in the Underworld series and clearly relishes every line of duplicitous and condescending dialogue. Plus it's also a pleasure to see her reunited with her Last Days of Disco co-star Chloe Sevigny.

Aussie Xavier Samuel is also entirely convincing and charming as the object of affection for both Lady Susan and her daughter while Phoneshop's Tom Bennett effortlessly steals every scene he's in as a dim-witted suitor.

Those who prefer their Austen to be more romantically inclined may well be disappointed by this more cynical approach but Stillman fans should find much to satisfy. Plus at just over 90 mins it doesn't outstay its welcome.

Personally I loved it.



 By Kevin Knapman


Love And Friendship (U)

1h 34m

Director: 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

UK Release: Friday 27th May 2016

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