By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Director Whit Stillman read Lady Susan in the 1990s quite on accident, as it was included in his edition of Northanger Abbey. Unlike the many other Austen stories which have been adapted to screen, though, this one above all captured his fancy, and this year he brought it to life, engineering a The Last Days of Disco reunion between Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny in the process.
A different witty tale of class unconsciousness.
Love & Friendship follows the widowed Lady Susan (Beckinsale) as she schemes to gain either her daughter, or herself, or even better, both, the eligible match and attendant income she so richly requires.
Austen and Stillman’s pens prove beautifully matched. As Archer would say, “phrasing”, and so much wonderfully droll phrasing there is. It’s difficult to attribute any of the score of laugh out loud turns of said phrase to either of them alone, and it doesn’t particularly matter. The script is an utter delight.
Beckinsale is unlike you’ve ever seen her, and delivers one of the most purely enjoyable lead performances of the year. Everything out of her mouth is an insult or a scheme, delivered at double tempo and multiple levels of entendre. The rest of the ensemble revolves around her sun in perfectly set ellipses, but Tom Bennett in particular stands out as a befuddled but wealthy idiot of the highest order, like if Colin Firth had a childhood misfortune at the other end of a mule.
Taika Waititi needs to build a film around this man forthwith.
Stillman the Director and his clearly talented production team also deliver all of the bombastic frillery and lovely period settings you’d hope for from a top of the scale period drama(dy), and manages some stylish flourishes all his own, like the fluid portrait introductions of the main characters or the script flashing onscreen during the reading of certain letters and poems. Quite delightful.
This isn’t one of Austen’s premiere plots, which may explain why it’s not one you’re likely to have heard of. Distilling all of the ins and outs of Lady Susan’s schemes and the various relationships made and taken advantage of by her into 90 minutes makes the race along, and you may have difficulty keeping up.
The Twista of 19th century courtship.
Love & Friendship is an utter delight of a biting Jane Austen relationship comedy turned Whit Stillman class satire that will draw plenty of fans of both.
Love & Friendship (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every Beckinsale bon mot that draws a laugh
Take a Drink: whenever Beckinsale meets with Chloe Sevigny
Take a Drink: “Manwaring”
Take a Drink: whenever Tom Bennett says something transcendentally dumb
Do a Shot: for matches made