FlixChatter Review: Love & Friendship (2016)

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You already know I LOVE period dramas and I adore Jane Austen. This was one of the Sundance films I couldn’t wait to see and it absolutely didn’t disappoint! Love & Friendship is an adaptation of Austen’s short epistolary novel Lady Susan that was published posthumously in 1871. Writer/director Whit Stillman changed its name but the focus is still on Lady Susan, played brilliantly by Kate Beckinsale.

Lady Susan Vernon is a beautiful widow who’s famous for her dalliances and flirtatious nature. As she waits out all the colorful rumors about her in her in-laws estate, whilst securing a husband for herself and her reluctant daughter Frederica. Chloë Sevigny plays her American best friend Alicia who’s loyal to her despite her husband’s threat to send her back to America if she doesn’t sever her ties with Susan.

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Right from the start, Stillman’s script infuses the movie with such biting wit and his direction is whimsical and fresh. I enjoy each character’s introduction, clearly labeled in an amusing fashion that makes it easy to understand who’s who in the story. One of Susan’s suitors is her sister in-law’s brother Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) who’s immediately smitten by her against his better judgment. The truth is, it’s very easy to be charmed by Lady Susan, as was I throughout this movie. In fact, this is perhaps one of the rare Jane Austen movies where there’s a lack of swoon-worthy Austen hero. But we do have an utterly hilarious character in the form of Sir James Martin, played by Tom Bennett who stole every scene he’s in. That ‘Churchill’ bit in the trailer got chuckling but it’s even funnier in the movie.

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I enjoyed this movie immensely and I think the fact that it’s more of a satire than a romance drama, it’d be as enjoyable for those who are normally not into this genre. Described as the most irresistibly devious of Austen protagonists (who’s not shy of admitting the fact that she has a married lover), Beckinsale shines in the lead role with her beauty and wit. The way she spins things to make it sound as if it’s everyone else’s faults but her own, when confronted with something that’s actually true, she’d say ‘Facts are horrid things!’ She delivers the most cunning, devious lines with such breezy, sunny disposition that’d charm the wits out of you. I’d say she’s utterly bewitching in this role, which is a welcome change considering I haven’t been impressed by anything she’s done lately. This is the second time Beckinsale has starred as an Austen character (the first time was in Emma in 1996), but this one is definitely a far superior performance. She has a nice chemistry with Sevigny, whom she co-starred with in Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco (1998).

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The movie is also gorgeous to look at, with sumptuous costumes (by Irish costume designer Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh), lush cinematography and picturesque scenery (apparently Ireland subbed for Regency England here). I absolutely adore Beckinsale’s purple dress featured in the poster. The music by Benjamin Esdraffo is lovely and adds that touch of whimsy. But it’s the droll and dry humor that keeps me engaged, I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in an Austen movie. I mean Pride + Prejudice + Zombies was hilarious because of the amusing juxtapositions, but as far as a straight Austen adaptation, this is by far the funniest. But then again I’ve always found Austen to be a funny and witty writer, and that’s what makes her social commentary on class and manners in polite society so wonderfully timeless.

Speaking of PPZ, interesting to see Emma Greenwell and Morfydd Clark from that film, who played Mr. Bingley’s sister and Mr. Darcy’s sister, respectively. Also fun seeing reliable British comic actors Stephen Fry and James Fleet as part of the ensemble.

At only an hour and 32 minutes, the movie flows with such upbeat energy. Kudos to Mr. Stillman for his brilliant work here, which made me want to check out his other films. I was privileged to see him talk about this film following the screening, and the New Yorker has such dry British humor, which explains the wit that transpires in the script. I might even check out his companion novel, titled Love & Friendship: In Which Jane Austen’s Lady Susan Vernon Is Entirely Vindicated. I think the fact that Stillman is a huge fan of Austen’s work (though he admitted that he disliked Northanger Abbey) definitely helps in making this such a delightful adaptation. This is another Austen movie I could watch over and over for years to come.

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Have you seen ‘Love & Friendship’? I’d love to hear what you think!

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46 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: Love & Friendship (2016)

    1. Y’know I LOVE Austen, but this one is especially delightful Cindy! I think you’d enjoy this, in fact I think this one is pretty guy-friendly too as it’s more of a comedy. I’ve convinced my hubby to see it in the theater when it’s released here 😉

    1. Hey Tiff! This is so right up our alley. It’s lovely but also hilarious! I actually rewatched the trailer over and over again and it made me chuckle every time. And the costumes are gorgeous! I hope you’ll do a post on that after you see it. Oh and Pride + Prejudice + Zombies will be available to rent at the end of the month, hope you’ll check it out too! 😉

        1. Ahah yeah I know. I’ve been meaning to check out The White Queen on Amazon Prime but never seem to have time for it. Well this movie’s released widely next week Tiff, so hope you’ll check it out!

  1. Being a Whit Stillman fan, I so want to fucking see this. Plus, I’m overjoyed to see a reunion between Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny as they did another Stillman film together in The Last Days of Disco.

    1. Hi Steven! I’m now a Whit Stillman fan thanks to this movie! He’s so witty, I thought he was a Brit as he’s got such a biting dry humor. I want to see ‘The Last Days of Disco’ now too!

    1. You’re missing out Mark 😉 I know most people would immediately brush this off as just another period piece, but it’s so witty and funny that I think even non Austen fans would enjoy!

  2. Great post Ruth. I have been wondering about this movie. “I think the fact that it’s more of a satire than a romance drama, it’d be as enjoyable for those who are normally not into this genre” – this has me wanting to see this now. Whenever the hell it is released that is!

    1. Hey Jordan, check out the trailer if you haven’t already: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSMNHKqrCOo It had me laughing the whole way through, Whit Stillman’s got such wit in his writing. The pace is pretty swift as well, so not at all melodramatic. I went to IMDb to check its release date, it’s gonna be released at Sydney Film Fest in June, heh I hope it’ll get a wider release in Australia soon!

        1. There are sooo many great lines in this movie, but yeah that scene is hilarious. Kate is so beautiful & charmingly-devious here, and the actor who played Sir James Martin is a hoot!

  3. Hi Ruth, I already plan to watch it again when it come out on the theater.. Love the ‘peas’ discussion.. And Lady Susan, I remember what they said about her in the movie ,That woman’s a genius..like the serpent in the Eden’s Garden..

    1. Hey Von! I even managed to get Ivan to see this with me next time. Ahah yeah, I think her sister in-law said ‘the woman is a fiend’ which means the devil. She is quite a scandalous woman, very rare in an Austen film that we have a naughty woman as the protagonist.

  4. Great work Ruth. I love a biting satire, they are always so fun to watch. And with this being based on something by Austen, I can tell it’s going to be wonderful.

    1. Yay! I love a guy who appreciates Austen 🙂 You’ll enjoy this immensely Vin, it’s a beautiful movie (with the beautiful Kate) and the biting satire is so darn entertaining!

            1. Ah, then you should check out Pride + Prejudice + Zombies! The dvd/bluray is out the end of the month. I don’t know if you read my review or not but I enjoyed it, somehow the zombies work perfectly in Regency era 😉

                1. It is! The movie’s played straight, so no winking at the camera. It’s astonishing how it somehow remains true to Austen’s text even w/ the zombies, so they basically swap the black plague w/ the zombie plague 🙂 The romance of Mr Darcy & Elizabeth Bennet remains intact.

  5. Awesome review! I’m really looking forward to this one, Beckinsale is receiving a lot of praise for her work here and it looks very funny

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  10. stellamarie

    you have to be a real Austen fan to want to watch as Whitman chose to cast oddly for this one and it didn’t run well by me as Lady Susan the book by Jane Austen was much better. But beggars can’t be choosers I guess as it took long enough to get Whitman on board. I can only hope it will spearhead more Austen productions like The Watsons or Sanditon and the many other juvenilia works. I put up with many remakes some very bad of the usual fare P&P to name one. Not to mention the sometimes awful spinoff adaptations. I wasn’t a fan of reusing Beckinsale and casting Chloe Sevigny either. So many somewhat known actors and actresses should have been used but like I said well what can you do. I would watch it by all means but make sure you read the novel first.

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