Love and Friendship

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Adapted from Jane Austen’s posthumously published novella Lady Susan written around 1794, Love and Friendship is a well-crafted intellectual comedy set in 18th century England among the aristocracy. It follows the exploits of Lady Susan Vernon, marvelously played by Kate Beckinsale, after the death of her rich husband. Attempting to escape her insufferable status as a dependent widow, she unexpectedly visits her in-laws’ country estate. She uses witty and cunning charm to manipulate her way through high society and maintain status by marrying any eligible wealthy aristocrat. The language used throughout the film feels as if it comes directly from the pages of a Jane Austen novel, complete with flowery and hifalutin words. The quick back-and-forth banter filled with pithy remarks reminded me of something written by Aaron Sorkin. Along with highbrow comedy, the film effectively incorporates moments of hilarious silliness. The dim-witted well-off bachelor Sir James Martin played by Tom Bennett steals many scenes with his buffoonery, including his musings on the word Churchill and discovery of peas. As a quintessential British period piece, the movie is brimming with sumptuous costumes set amongst palatial country estates and London townhouses and scored by playful classical music. The film posits itself as a self-aware, almost satirical comedy about the frivolities of aristocratic society. For example, before the first scene, each character is introduced with their own descriptive subtitle, including Sir James Martin being labeled as “a bit of a ‘rattle.'” Overall, I would recommend the movie to all lovers of Jane Austen and those looking for a sophisticated yet whimsical period comedy.

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