Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco, the trio of films that put filmmaker Whit Stillman on the map during the decade of the 90s, just never seemed like my cup of tea. I guess every critic has a list of several films that they know they should see but just can’t muster up the gumption to get the task accomplished and those three darlings of the nineties independent film circuit have certainly been lurking on my list.
Stillman vanished from filmmaking after 1998 and, with the exception of one effort back in 2012, he’s been MIA on the movie scene. He’s now returned with Love and Friendship, an adaptation of one of author Jane Austen’s lesser-known works and it’s a charming little film that is loads of fun at various times. I had a really good time with it and, if nothing else, perhaps Stillman’s latest effort has given me the courage to rethink my policy on the director’s earlier films.
Love and Friendship is the kind of talky period piece that certainly won’t play very well with the mainstream crowd but for those who enjoy this sort of thing—and you know exactly who you are—it’s bound to hit a bullseye. It’s funny, warm, and full of interesting observations on the subject of love and, particularly, marrying simply for the reasons of convenience.
Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale in Love & Friendship
The characters are well drawn and the dialogue crackles and pops.
Stillman definitely seems to be perfectly suited to the material he’s adapting and I really liked some of the visual flourishes he brings to the film. One of the smartest things he does, and this is something from which more period films could benefit, is to highlight all of the character names onscreen. It goes a long way in helping to keep straight all of the various people that populate the film.
A good selling point for the picture is certainly in the casting of Kate Beckinsdale in the lead. She is, of course, most well known for her appearances in the Underworld franchise and mainstream films of that ilk. It’s nice to see her appearing here in the lead role of Lady Susan, a scheming and conniving widow who wants nothing more than to secure financial freedom for herself and her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark). Along the way she attracts multiple suitors; the dashing Reginald (Xavier Samuel), who’s quite taken with Lady Susan, the socially awkward but wealthy, Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett, who gets some of the film’s best lines) and Lord Manwarinng (Lochlann O’Mearain), who just happens to also be married. Chloë Sevigny also stars here.
The only problem to be found with the film is that is slight, but others who are more enamored of period films can easily forgive that transgression. There’s much to embrace about the film even if it does tend to evaporate once it’s over and done.
X Men: Apocalypse is playing everywhere. Love and Friendship is playing in Charlotte.
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