A perfect wintery Sunday afternoon film, Love and Friendship is a comical adaptation of the novella, Lady Susan. In all honesty, I have never read the novella, but loved that this film showcased Jane Austen’s witty and intelligent sense of humour. It remains quite the mystery why the film was entitled Love and Friendship, which is actually the name of another completely unrelated short story by Jane Austen. Despite all of the usual conservatism of regency England, I laughed aloud continuously throughout this film and could not work out why Lady Susan is not one of Jane Austen’s more popular or widely read works.
Kate Beckinsale plays the wicked unscrupulous Lady Susan, a devious and scheming gold digger, whom after the death of her husband is looking to secure herself a rich husband and find a beneficial match for her daughter, Frederica. Newly widowed Lady Susan is left without a home or fortune and must rely on the charity of her brother-in-law and his wife, who allow Lady Susan and Frederica to live with them in their country estate, Churchill.
Lady Susan is beautiful and bewitching, but deliciously amoral. She uses manipulation and flirtation to win the love of any man within a close radius. Lady Susan sets her sights on the young and handsome, but extremely gullible, Reginald De Courcy, who is at least a decade younger than she. They keep their romantic tryst quiet as Reginald’s family strongly object to the union as a result of Lady Susan’s risqué reputation.
The story unfolds like a Shakespearian comedy with an interesting cast of theatrical characters who are all entangled with one another. Reginald is infatuated with Lady Susan, who is just stringing him along for her own entertainment whilst maintaining an illicit affair with a married man. Meanwhile, Lady Susan is trying to bait Sir James Martin to marry her daughter Frederica, but she favours Reginald and is unaware that he is engaged to her mother. It’s like A Midsummer Night’s Dream without the magic and fairies, or is perhaps more like Bold and the Beautiful with corsets and fancy English words.
Kate Beckinsale plays such an enigmatic seductress, the culmination of poise and poison simultaneously. I loved seeing a different side to Jane Austen’s well mannered love stories. Lady Susan is a highly unorthodox main character for Jane Austen and the style and tone of this film is so un-Jane like.
Highlight of the film: a happy ending in true Jane style means marriages all round, but this time around there are some funny quirks and unexpected matches!