Love & Friendship Review: Elegantly Simple and Funny

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As far as stuffy costume dramas go, Love & Friendship takes great pleasure in cutting down societal norms of the period by way of just its main character. A creation of Jane Austen, the character of Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale), as the novel on which the film is based is titled, is what gives this film life. Beckinsale’s sharp and carefree performance makes it seem like this is the role she’s been waiting her whole career for. But besides that, Love & Friendship is decidedly plain and ordinary as a film. The costumes astonish as you’d expect them to, but there’s little creativity here left by director Whit Stillman for it to be more than a well-acted adaptation. Though, that may be enough for Austen devotees.

The story follows Lady Susan and her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) as they visit family and suitors to achieve success and happiness by any means necessary. Lady Susan has hardly given her daughter any of her gusto, however. She only shares that with her American friend, Alicia (Chloe Sevigny). As a story should, things get more interesting as they move along, though the film can’t quite shake Lady Susan’s own emotional detachment from itself. There’s not much to latch onto as she tears her way through the English countryside. That’s fine, and the film is successful enough without attachment, but there’s little overall significance without creative innovation in the medium or emotional resonance in the story.

But still, there are way worse ways to spend your time in a movie theater than watching Beckinsale run the world the way she wants to as Lady Susan. Love & Friendship skates by for that, but don’t expect it to linger on your mind after the credits roll. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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