June 1, 2016
About the author : Project manager by day, crazy cat lady by night. Emily's first love is J.R.R. Tolkien. She's also into Walking Dead, video games, Doctor Who, and anime. When she isn't knee-deep in her latest fandom, she's usually sleeping.
Another new Jane Austen film is in theaters–Love & Friendship. If that doesn’t sound familiar, you shouldn’t be surprised. It’s based on Lady Susan, which wasn’t published until decades after Jane’s death.
I have never read Lady Susan, but I knew it was about a scheming and beautiful woman who did as she pleased. That is an accurate description of the movie, but it doesn’t go far enough. Love & Friendship is full of the witty dialogue and ridiculous characters we all expect from Jane, true. However, there’s more of a bite to the wit than is common in a Jane Austen film. I found myself laughing out loud frequently (more often than most of the other people in the theater, so there’s that).
Kate Beckinsale is perfect as Lady Susan. She is beautiful, poised, and oh so manipulative. By the last 20 minutes of the film, I found myself hoping that all of her plans would fail–while still admiring her masterful control over the male psyche.
Speaking of the male psyche, I’ve never enjoyed the male characters in an Austen film more than I enjoyed these gentlemen. Whether they were ridiculous, endearing, stupid, or all of the above, they left nothing wanting.
Honestly, at least on my first viewing, this is a near-perfect film. There are a few minor flaws (such as inconsistent use of text on the screen), but certainly nothing to ruin the film. The title is a little odd, considering “friendship” isn’t all that important in the film. I suppose it’s a more familiar-sounding title to Austen fans who are used to Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.
My biggest problem is that the fashions of the day made Reginald look kind of stubby. But he can’t help that. And obviously, they decided not to pull a 1940s Pride and Prejudice and completely change the dress to suit the body type of an actor. But that’s a post for another day.
I will add that Kate Beckinsale (and most of the women in the film) looked beautiful in the hairstyles of the day. She should always do her hair like that.
It’s rare that I see a drama/romantic-comedy/period-piece/anything-but-an-action-movie in theaters, but this was well worth it. Not because the film was necessarily better on the big screen but because I can never get enough of quality Jane Austen adaptations. Not like the most recent round of BBC adaptations. I’m looking at you, Mansfield Park starring Billie Piper. I definitely plan to buy this on Blu-Ray when it comes out. (I’m a firm believer in always voting with your wallet when it comes to entertainment.)
I would recommend Love & Friendship without hesitation to any Jane Austen fan. Now I just need to read the book.