Set in the 1790s, Love and Friendship centers on beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon, who has come to the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. Whilst there, she decides to secure a husband for herself and her rather reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica.
At one point, one of the female characters complains that her husband is "not old enough to die soon", thereby letting her become a wealthy widow. However, her husband in the film is quite old for the time, appearing to be in his 60's. The average life expectancy in the period of 1750-1800 was only 35 years old. The wealthy lived longer, of course, but one was still not expected to live past 50 years of age at the time. See more »
Lady Susan Vernon:
Ah, mortality. Our mortality and that of others, but most particularly our own, is the hardest and most intractable hand life can deal us.
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At the conclusion of the end credits, there is a line encouraging viewers to read the novel, "in which Lady Susan Vernon is thoroughly vindicated." See more »
The most enjoyable film I've seen this year so far.
Whit Stillman is hardly the most prolific of film-makers. Since his debut, "Metropolitan", in 1990, he has only directed 5 feature films, all of which he has also written, but they represent as fine a body of work as any in contemporary American cinema. His movies may not be particularly 'cinematic'; they are talkative comedies but they are also fiercely intelligent and often very funny in a way that so many films aren't these days. When people talk of Stillman they may be thinking of Jane Austen, so perhaps it was only to be expected that Stillman would finally get around to tackling an Austen story.
"Love and Friendship", Stillman's thoroughly delightful new film, is based on Austen's little known novella "Lady Susan" and it may be the best screen version of Austen thus far. It's deeply acerbic in a way Austen seldom is and it's also laugh-out-loud funny. Kate Beckinsale is Lady Susan, recently widowed, mother of a daughter of marriageable age and financially dependent on the kindness of strangers.
When the film opens she has arrived at the country seat of her sister-in-law, Catherine DeCourcy Vernon, in search of shelter and perhaps a new husband. Her reputation of being something of a man-eater has preceded her and yet she has no trouble in winning the heart of Catherine's younger brother, Reginald. What follows is a typically brilliant and very Austen-like tale of romantic intrigues and misunderstandings, broader perhaps than either "Pride and Prejudice" or "Sense and Sensibility" yet totally in keeping with Stillman's view of the world, past and present.
It would be invidious of me to choose one member of a wonderful ensemble over another for special praise since every performance is close to sublime. Still, it was gratifying to see Chloe Sevigny, in the best part she's had in some time, as Lady Susan's American friend and confidante, always living in fear in being shipped back to Connecticut by her older husband, played by Stephen Fry.
The closest Stillman comes to making his film cinematic is in his use of 'natural' lighting in several of the interior shots; otherwise this movie, like everything else Stillman has done, is totally dependent on his brilliant cast, the sharpness of his writing and the wit and compassion of his direction to make its mark. I doubt if I will see anything more entertaining this year.
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