Runtime: 92 Minutes
Main Cast: Kate Beckinsale
Main production companies: Blinder Films
Based on: Lady Susan by Jane Austen
Written and directed by Will Stillman
Written by Nelson Cumming
Love and Friendship is one of the movies that likes to take narrative and character concepts and turns it on its head. Love and Friendship is a movie based on a novella by Jane Austin and is as beautifully made as if it were Austin’s vision. It pays homage to her work and parodies her time. It isn’t as good as I thought (99% on Rotten Tomatoes) but it is a beautiful and well-made film nonetheless.
If there were a personified parody of 19th-century society, it would be Lady Susan Bernard played by Kate Beckinsale. She plays a widow whose husband recently passed away. Her aim is to continue to live a comfortable life with her daughter. She wants to do this my manipulating wealthy royals and marrying her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) and herself off to them. As with any manipulation tactic, the web gets messy and the plot thickens, making it harder for Lady Susan to get what she wants.
The other great thing about Love and Friendship is the way the movie is executed. It finds the right balance between making a comedic period piece that makes fun of societal values of the 19th century without mocking it. This delicate balance made the movie funny, interesting and engaging without feeling forced at all. Everything about this movie feels it has a place and a purpose.
The acting from everyone is great and what is even better is each one of them is completely different. Beckinsale has the timing to perfection and her posture, facial expressions and the way she moves around the room went a long way with her performance. Tom Bennett is playing St. James, one of the wealthy men who nails playing the simple man. When you think he isn’t any more awkward in conversations, he finds a way to top it. It’s funny instead of grating because he does it with eloquent enthusiasm.
The other thing that is good is the dialogue (mostly) as it has a load of flair and wit. The scenes that are funny come from lots of quips and one-liners from Beckinsale as she manipulates and exploits things in her favor (“As there’s a friendship involved, I do believe that paying wages is offensive to us both”) and other funny scenes come from the other main characters come either from their timing or how they establish themselves in a scene.
The problem about the dialogue for me is it wore me down. I slowly became inundated by the onslaught of 19th-century dialogue. It weighed me down and I was getting bored. Thankfully, I wasn’t in a bored stupor as the movie is short for a period piece as it’s only 92 minutes long and the comedic elements were fun for brief periods of time. That kept me going. The language was something I understood but needed a break from, which is not what you get in this movie as it’s dialogue driven.
Overall Love and Friendship is a movie that successfully caters to the audience well-educated, female, literary enthusiasts while trying to break new ground with other groups of people. Either way, Love and Friendship is a unique movie that is a standout for the genre that it’s in. ***3/4