Love & Friendship

Directed By: Whit Stillman

Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, Tom Bennett, James Fleet, Justin Edwards, Jenn Murray, Stephen Fry, and Chloë Sevigny

There are such things as guilty pleasures at the box office.  They're like Donald Trump for his supporters still in the closet.  Just look to films such as Twilight, Step Up, and most horror movies.  Adaptations of Jane Austen novels appear to fit that bill as well.  Take Austenland and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for instance.  Frivolity is the name of the game for both of these films.  It's no different for the recently released Love & Friendship, an adaptation of Austen's Lady Susan.  A period piece with humor at heart, this lighthearted flick is no breakout hit at the indie box office, but it certainly offers plenty of amusement.

Widowed and raising her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) on her own, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) turns to her in-laws the Vernon family for assistance.  Living as a socialite without a partner earning income, she's run out of money.  Leaving her life in London behind with her dear friend Alicia Johnson (Chloë Sevigny), Lady Susan makes her way to the Vernon's estate Churchill.  Despite rumors having circulated about Lady Susan's flirtatious lifestyle since being widowed, Charles Vernon and his wife Catherine DeCourcy Vernon (Justin Edwards and Emma Greenwell) welcome her with relatively open arms.  When Lady Vernon's brother Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) arrives, the Vernons fear that Lady Susan will sink her claws right into his heart and wallet. As fate would have it, she does just that and garners the unwanted attention of Reginald's parents (James Fleet & Jemma Redgrave).

Love & Friendship
is most definitely a showcase of the ageless Kate Beckinsale's acting prowess.  Charismatic, sharp-witted, and perfectly guarded, Beckinsale is at the tip top of her game.  With her having appeared in so many Underworld films, people forget just how talented she is as an actress.  With endless charms and impeccable comedic timing, she serves up plenty of the frivolous humor in the spirit of Jane Austen that defines Love & Friendship.  Her performance carries the film.  Beyond her, the supporting cast of characters delivers a set of endearing performances as well.  The standout supporting turn comes from Chloë Sevigny as Lady Susan's best friend Alicia Johnson.  She is perhaps the only one who can steal the limelight from Beckinsale with her caustic wit.

While the performances are strong, there's not much else to the film.  As I've said, frivolity is the name of the game in Love & Friendship.  Director Whit Stillman doesn't bring any elements of intrigue or allure to the film.  His direction is honestly a rather bland treatment of the source material.  Yes, the costumes harken back to the late eighteenth century.  Yes, the set design is appropriate for the era.  Yes, the film is cut coherently.  Nonetheless, checking these boxes makes the direction of the film competent.  It says nothing with regard to style or substance, which are both definitely lacking in this Jane Austen adaptation.

Love & Friendship
gets a strong 0.06% rating.  Have a few glasses of Merlot with this one.