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Love & Friendship (2016)
Was this an improvement on "Lady Susan"?
Perhaps this is a movie that only Jane Austen fans can love. I like Jane Austen but I don't like this movie.
The non-acting aspects of the movie were superb, and the acting overall was fine. My problems with the movie is the story itself and the director's lack of imagination with it.
The movie reflects that, as an early work of Jane Austen, it was not very sophisticated. The writing and directing did not improve on it. In effect, the movie was built on a series of tedious soliloquies by Lady Susan. The only suspense was provided by not knowing which plot elements were real or Lady Susan's fabricated illusions. After a while I realized that I was giving too much benefit to Lady Susan for fabricating illusions. She was clever but not that clever. Her cunning strategies--and the plot--mostly had a short-term horizon that never extended past the next scene.
I want to find the book and read it because I can't believe that it had some of the serious defects that the film showed. Most notably, what has been a friendly relation abruptly transformed to a discussion of marriage. I thought I had missed some bridging aspect of the dialogue but checked with my companions after the movie and they had been mystified too. I have a sense that a bridging scene was left on the editing room floor and no one noticed the abrupt change of pace.
The conclusion of the movie came too suddenly. Just was it seemed there would be another act, the house lights came on and the movie was over. I got the sense that Jane Austen ran out of ideas for the story, perhaps got bored with it, and so quickly tied up the loose ends.
To restate, the non-acting aspects of the movie were superb, and the acting itself was fine, per se. Perhaps there wasn't much material for a great movie in the original Jane Austen work, but the movie I saw could have been a lot better. I think the directing killed the potential for great acting and killed movie overall.
Dark elements in this child's movie
Our family loved the charming first movie but this movie is just awful. The negative reviews already written recap the problems very well: Poor directing, plodding story, predictable outcomes, etc. Ghastly. Three additional criticisms not yet mentioned.
(1) Very confusing clothing and haircuts. Who would cast farm kids during WWII to wear polo shirts? That and Vince's mop haircut gave the feeling in the opening scene that this was a modern film with elements from American suburbs.
(2) On which planet does a fun children's film feature villains who extort characters with deadly threats of removing both kidneys...and worse? I'm not taking this film seriously but that's just too macabre.
(3) During the introduction to special features, Emma Thompson says that this is "An entirely new film." That is just so not true. Indeed, an early scene sets you up to expect to see a duplicate scene copied from the first movie. You get fooled but then a few seconds later you see the scene you expected anyway. The only thing original to this movie compared to the first is that pigs fly.
There are positive elements to this movie--beautiful country scenes, nice camera work, good acting by lesser characters--but not enough to warrant spending precious time to watch it.