Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel
Director: Whit Stillman
Running Time: 92 mins
Love & Friendship is an Irish film following Lady Susan Vernon as she spends time at her in-laws’ residence attempting to find a suitor for her daughter, whilst getting up to her own devilish plans for her benefit.
First off, I need to clarify that I know absolutely nothing about Jane Austen. I’ve never read any of her books, and have only seen Pride And Prejudice, so I went into this film completely blind. That said, I really enjoyed Love & Friendship. It’s an upbeat, clever and consistently witty film that, although a little muddled for those unfamiliar with Austen, had me smiling right the way through.
If you’re a real fan of Jane Austen, I’m confident that this will be a perfect film, but even for those of us who know nothing about her stories, this film is still a great watch. I may not have understood all of the subtleties of the characters and humour throughout (and there are definitely a lot), but the great thing about Love & Friendship is that it’s such a quick-witted and consistently funny film that there’s plenty of jokes about for everyone.
If you were to understand every single little detail, this would be a properly hilarious film, but I found myself chuckling a lot, even with the occasional big laugh, at various jokes throughout. For a film to make me actually find Jane Austen properly funny and enjoyable is no mean feat, and that’s by far the biggest praise that I can give the film: that it’s a hugely fun watch for all.
Beyond the great comedy, however, I’ve really got to praise the performances. With quite a large ensemble cast, it’s often the case that good performances get lost behind the central characters, but in Love & Friendship, everybody has their moment to shine, and they all do it fantastically well.
However, it still remains that Kate Beckinsale is the stand-out. In the lead role as the cunning and flirtatious Lady Susan, she’s absolutely fantastic to watch right the way through. She has a lot of fun putting on the show of this woman who’s ten times smarter than anyone around her, and works some brilliant comedic magic showing us all of Lady Susan’s manipulations to all those she knows.
Finally, the film looks absolutely great. The costume and production design is absolutely wonderful, and rather than going too overboard with showy period drama sets, the production stays in line with the film’s more relaxed atmosphere by largely showing a few rooms, and makes most of its lavish imagery through the countless flamboyant outfits that the characters wear.
Overall, I really liked Love & Friendship. As a non-Austen fan, I felt a little out of my depth going into the film, but I was very soon just as entertained as any die-hard follower, thanks to this film’s hugely entertaining comedy and performances, along with its delightful production design, and that’s why Love & Friendship gets a 7.6 from me.