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Love & Friendship

Love & Friendship

Starring: Chloe Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Stephen Fry, Tom Bennett, Jenn Murray (Rated PG – 92 min).

Any film adaptation derived from Jane Austen expressive prose has me at hello – whether it be in the traditional period or contemporary updates such as Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), borrowing off Pride & Prejudice, or timeless Clueless (1995) deviating from Emma.

Radical love matching and securing husbands is on the agenda for Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) while taking up residence at an in-laws grand estate. Bristling with intentional dalliances expanding her flirtatious nature on the opposite sex is a priority often backing them into a corner with ulterior motives.

Also visiting the castle grounds is American friend Alicia (Chloe Sevigny) already with a husband that demands her away from widowed Lady Susan immediately or he will send her back home. A threat which undoubtedly is laughed at. More than a simple corset farce, this is vintage Austen.

The story has been expanded from a short epistolary published posthumously in 1871 by accomplished independent director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Damsels in Distress). His light style suits the kinetic energy of his cast who mostly just talk and talk and talk. However that dialogue is silver lining literature, just enough wit mixed with sleight drama to evoke unparralled attention and many laughs.

Not quite Mr Darcy, the man of the hour Sir James Martin as played by Tom Bennett, still wins a few hearts on screen and possibly causing a majority of the audience to also swoon. An incredible performance by Beckinsale is Oscar worthy, her breezy disposition when brandishing devious lines manages to come off charming even when insulting her peers.

Final word on the immaculate costumes, something that is of high importance for any film set in before or after the Victorian era. The symmetry of designs here dazzles the eye as much as the dialogue pierces the ear. Persuasion remains my favourite Jane Austen apologue however Love & Friendship demands a second viewing.

Shane A. Bassett

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