This film, as in other Austin films, is set in the Regency period in Britain (the very early 19th century). However, the filmmakers actually chose to make the film in Ireland...and it's a nice substitute. When the film begins, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is abruptly leaving the Manwaring estate. You have no idea why but soon learn that Lady Susan is a rather poor woman and generally visits with friends and family in order to sponge off them. She also feels no particular obligation to pay her mounting debts...after all, she is Lady Susan! Her sister-in-law, Catherine Vernon (Emma Greenwell) isn't completely thrilled with the visit to her home, as Lady Susan has the reputation as a very beguiling yet vicious woman...all done with a smile. Catherine is also soon alarmed because her nice but slightly dim brother, Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) is captivated by Lady Susan and would love to marry her. Oddly, despite Lady Susan being a horrible and conniving woman, when her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark) joins them at their estate, she is nothing like her mother...and the audience hopes and prays that dopey Reginald recognizes Frederica and Susan for who they truly are. However, Susan is determined to have Reginald for herself and instead foist the incredibly boring and stupid Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) onto Frederica. Can this master manipulator be stopped or will she soon manage to make three other people completely miserable?
This film is quite funny but the humor is nothing like the long string of brain-dead and worthless parodies of films such as Disaster Movie and Date Movie. Instead of being broad and written for the average 10 year-old, Love & Friendship is often very subtle and is filled with wit that should appeal to Austin fans. But it's also the sort of well-crafted film that just has a limited appeal to broader audiences. It's a shame, as it's very well directed, sports a clever script and has lots of wonderful supporting actors such as Steven Fry and James Fleet (who is my favorite in the supporting cast). For fans of the author it's a must-see...others might just want to wait until this comes to Netflix or DVD.
For fans, I'd give this one a 10. For all others, perhaps a 5 or 6.