The TV series ‘Downton Abbey’ saw period dramas return to popularity. The British channel BBC virtually built its name on them with many going into television history. A well written period drama can be timeless, with stylish wit and amazing costumes on display. Adapted from the Jane Austen novella ‘Lady Susan’, ‘Love and Friendship’ is an amusing tale of class and romance. Those versed in Austen’s prose such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ will know what to expect with this film leaning heavily on her enduring words.
Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsdale) is staying with her in-laws whilst riding out yet another scandal. A woman often in trouble, she doesn’t let mishaps stand the way of enjoying life. Wanting to find a husband, whilst attempting to set up a romance for her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark). One of the likely romantic candidates is the suave Reginald (Xavier Samuel) who becomes an unwitting player in Lady Susan’s wicked match-making game.
Directing from his adapted screenplay, Whit Stillman seems to be in his element shooting beautifully coifed performers amidst luscious surrounds. Money couldn’t buy that and ‘Love and Friendship’ is easy on the eye. The cast do a fine job inhabiting their characters who are pawns in Lady Susan’s clutches. A manipulative and opportunistic woman, Lady Susan uses her friends like chess-board pieces. Well defined by Beckinsdale, you understand the way she is and her hopes for her daughter.
In spite of her good performance, Beckinsdale can only be good as the story she’s given. Unfortunately Stillman doesn’t quite know how to tell the tale with several narrative gaps evident. Events move too quickly to keep up with what’s happening, leading to a somewhat confused conclusion. It’s a shame ‘Love and Friendship’ is lumbered with a patchy script as it had potential to be one of the better Austen adaptations.
‘Love and Friendship’ will probably appeal to those wanting to see period costumes and wonderful locations. They’ll receive plenty in spite of a rather under-cooked script. It shouldn’t dampen their enthusiasm for similar works with Austen’s books continuing to enchant in this digital age.
Movie Review Rating out of 10: 6
Movie Review by Patrick Moore
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