Sunday 19 June 2016

Movie Review: Love And Friendship (2016)

An adaptation of Jane Austen's novel Lady Susan, Love And Friendship rattles off long passages of dialogue in a series of confined settings as the protagonist tries to steer her life towards comfortable money. The film is static, stagey and unconvincing.

England, in the 1790s. Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is widowed and penniless. She is also conniving and desperate to find monied husbands for herself and her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Susan, whose one friend is transplanted American Alicia Johnson (ChloĆ« Sevigny), sets about winning the heart of her sister-in-law's younger brother Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel), while trying to convince Frederica to accept the wedding proposal of the rich but stupid Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett). The real prize, however, is the wealthy and powerful Mr. Manwaring, but he is already married to the increasingly frantic Lucy (Jenn Murray).

Directed and written by Whit Stillman, Love And Friendship gets bogged down with too many stuffy characters who have little to do except be victimized by Lady Susan's sharp wit. The film's comedy stems from the inherent, and sometimes explicit, stupidity of everyone except Susan, and once the pattern is set, the film sinks into a predictable downward spiral of Susan moving the chess pieces to checkmate all around her.

Some of the dialogue exchanges are witty, there are a few laughs, the costumes and hairstyles are lavish and Beckinsale radiates confidence. But the material is extremely thin, the various settings in London and the countryside estates are excuses to continue the same conversations within different indoor sets, and too often the scenes resemble readings of Austen's prose rather than acting. The film fundamentally fails to shift from a clever book to an engaging visual experience.

When it comes to Lady Susan, Love And Friendship are irrelevant; instead, her world is all about convenience and manipulation, and unfortunately her gamesmanship is also a crushing bore.

All Ace Black Movie Reviews are here.

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