Being a Jane Austen fan, I was really excited to see Love and Friendship, a film adaptation of the novel Lady Susan.
Lady Susan is a woman who has no qualms about her affair with a married man. She is selfish, rude, and controlling of her marriage-age daughter, but somehow in a charming way. She at first hitches her daughter to a silly man who rivals Mr. Collins in unnecessary speech. The young buck in this tale is Reginald DeCourcy, a man with wealth and title who falls for Lady Susan’s guise as the misunderstood widow.
The first thing that struck me while I watched was how the director used the opening to showcase a very unlikely technique reminiscent of the early age of film. With plain black background and wavy yellow font, I wondered if the film would be shot in silent. The introduction of characters was also shot in this fashion. I wasn’t sure if I liked this or if it made the film disjointed for me. The technique did add to the comedic fashion the film followed, but I am still undecided if I like it in a film so different in period.
There is no doubt that the entire movie carried Jane’s wit and sense of humor. Several of the sarcastic lines of Lady Susan’s are my all-time favorites of any of Jane’s books.
About a suitor,
“He’s too old to be governable, too young to die.”
About Alicia Johnson’s husband recovering from a gout attack when she wished he had perished,
“May Mr. Johnson’s next gouty attack end more favorably.”
Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin is the extra comedy relief and plays a nincompoop rather well. Along with Lady Susan’s sarcastic attitude, these two bring about a real sense of farce to the whole movie, which I rather enjoyed.
Sets, houses, and costuming in the movie were exquisite, especially for Kate Beckinsale who played Lady Susan. The reds and purples of Kate’s clothes were so vibrant and always made her the center of attention. However, I found the men’s breeches lacked proper tailoring. At first I thought it was just on the older men, but even the young buck DeCourcy’s outfits were in serious need of a crotch tailor.
The almost unrecognizable Beckinsale (I’ll admit to only knowing her tough Underworld character) gave an outstanding performance playing a woman who was believable and dangerous. As for the other characters, I am not sure I liked them or not. The story in a whole is charming and funny but does not have the same happy resolution of Jane’s other works. When I say happy, I do not mean joyous, for of course there was a marriage at the end. I mean the story did not seem to mesh as well as her other works. In fact, it does not even hold the complexity of her other works. It’s as if someone said, “Jane, could you write a comedy without a proper ending, leaving out scenes here and there with no real resolution?” Perhaps this is why she did not publish it while she was alive. Perhaps she knew it needed something to make it complete?
So, as a Jane fan, I did enjoy seeing this missing piece from her, and I will most likely buy it on DVD, but it will only stand as part of a collection I love. This has inspired me, however, to re-read Lady Susan and see where (if any) mistakes or improvements were made.
Did you see Love and Friendship? What did you think? Please comment below.