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|Love & Friendship|
dir-scr Whit Stillman
prd Lauranne Bourrachot, Katie Holly, Whit Stillman
with Kate Beckinsale, Chloe Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Justin Edwards, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, James Fleet, Stephen Fry, Jenn Murray, Lochlann O Mearainn
release US 13.May.16, UK 27.May.16, Ire 2.Sep.16
A tricky dance: Beckinsale and Samuel
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on Jane Austen novella Lady Susan, this film reteams filmmaker Whit Stillman with the stars of his 1998 drama The Last Days of Disco, Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny. And both are on perfect form in this lacerating social comedy, which draws out Austen's most pungent themes to create a group of hugely entertaining characters who interact in jaggedly hilarious ways.
A widow on her way to poverty, Lady Susan (Beckinsale) is determined to find a wealthy, dim-witted man to marry her daughter Frederica (Clark). Sir James (Bennett) is perfect. And for herself, Susan sets her sights on handsome, rich, gullible Reginald (Samuel), younger brother of her sister-in-law Catherine (Greenwell), who sees right through Susan's schemes. Through all of this, Susan confides only in her American friend Alicia (Sevigny), who is married sensibly to an older man (Fry) whom Susan says is a problem because he's "too old to be agreeable, and too young to die".
Stillman's script crackles with sharp wit, as Susan preys on anyone who might be able to improve her position, relying on the naivete stupidity of people around her. She has contempt for pretty much everyone, but is so good-humoured about this that she can't help but be likeable. Her pithy observations and throw-away insults are hilarious, as is how she manipulates her way through society. Even more cleverly, she manipulates the audience into rooting for her, even though we know what she's up to.
Beckinsale plays Susan impeccably as a sexy woman who is older than she seems to be, which allows her to chase much-younger men while keeping the older ones happy with vacuous flattery. Sevigny is terrific as her only confidante, engaging in dexterous verbal sparring with barely concealed glee. And the supporting cast is superb, with women who doubt Susan's character and men who can't help but be drawn to her. Samuel is deeply charming as the pretty but never dull Reginald; Bennett delivers a memorable turn as the hysterically dopey James.
Sticking close to Austen's story while expanding on her jaggedly comical tone, Stillman guides the audience through the story with funny on-screen text, brisk editing and a very clever classical score (original music is by Benjamin Esdraffo). The sets and costumes are sumptuous without being fussy, adding a contemporary believability that's echoed in the sassy dialog. And it's rare to find a period drama that can make the 18th century look like so much fun.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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