It is refreshing to have a Jane Austen adaption based on one of her lesser known novellas – but it does expose the flaws of the original story that is perhaps less full filling in comparison to her better known novels.
Based on Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan, the story follows Lady Susan Vernon who is a widow with no money and in attempt to acquire some plans on getting her daughter to marry a wealthy individual, while trying to find a match for herself – that would allow her to continue her affair with another married man.
Directed with style by Whit Stillman, he manages to draw out the sharp humour of Jane Austen’s language and somehow make the character of Lady Susan relatively charming that despite her many flaws you can’t help warming to by the end of the film. Of course the over reliance of putting her language up on the screen – particularly extracts from letters can become tedious at times, yet even this provides a faithful representation of what Austen was trying to be saying about society.
The plot does come across as slightly flimsy and overwhelming with a number of characters, but yet thanks to the wonderfully charming and sharp witted performance of Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan it doesn’t matter so much the more you become involved with the story.
Xavier Samuel as the charming and gullible Reginald is a suitable romantic hero, extremely eloquent throughout, while Chloë Sevigny is the perfect companion to Kate Beckinsale’s Lady Susan and Morfydd Clark is lovely as the timid Frederica, who begins to blossom particularly towards the end of the film.
As romantic entanglements begin to unravel, it is clear that perhaps the original story is lacking in the usual details that Jane Austen is known for – such as the apparent disagreement between Lady Susan and Reginald about how to handle Frederica and her apparent reluctance to marry Sir James Martin. The editing is rather sharp and lacks softness that it is difficult to get a sense of the characters and their motivations in places.
But the film is ultimately successful because it is delivering a new Jane Austen adaption that will please fans and recognises her ability to make observations of society in a charming and elegant way.
Love & Friendship is available to buy through Amazon now.