A sparkling Austen adaptation which is as playful with Austen’s text as it is reverent…
It requires a certain boldness to integrate your own humor into Austen’s work, and quite a level of skill to pull that trick off successfully. Thankfully writer and director Whit Stillman is as brazen as he is in command of his craft and Love and Friendship greatly benefits from his ability to weave relatively contemporary touches, additional insights and reconfigured dialogue with the original novella produced by the young Jane Austen. It amounts to a rather sumptuous treat; one which can surprise us by daring to make an Austen adaptation feel modern whilst retaining her wit and the visual trappings necessary to keeping that period feel.
Telling the tale of the seductive and scheming Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) as she navigates English high society in search of increasingly wealthy bachelors, Love and Friendship places us firmly in traditional Austen territory. Or at least so we think. As the narrative progresses it becomes increasingly clear how unusual a protagonist Lady Susan really is given the time period in which Austen wrote. She is deliciously manipulative, coldly reducing people down to their wealth and malleability in order to determine their suitability as potential spouses. In many ways she is an Austen villainess whose been given the charge to run rampant on centre stage whilst a traditional drama plays out amongst the supporting cast. Beckinsale is on top form in the role, clearly relishing every second she has on screen in what must be one of her most energetic and smartly observed performances in years.
Backed by a supporting cast containing the likes of Chloë Sevigny, Stephen Fry and James Fleet, and with a script which is both wryly observed and carefully crafted, Love and Friendship is just what we had hoped it would be. By choosing to adapt an Austen tale which few know, the film cleverly gives its audience something which feels both very new and intrinsically familiar. By taking a few risks here and there the film feels modern and will appeal to viewers who perhaps wouldn’t normally watch Georgian comedy of errors without loosing favour with the Janeites. It’s a very successful adaptation and is delightfully entertaining to watch.
Love and Friendship arrives on DVD & Blu-Ray today (26th September), will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!