Wednesday, December 14, 2016


Based on a Jane Austen novella and set in the 1790s, Love & Friendship centers on beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), who has come to the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. Whilst there, she decides to secure a husband for herself and her rather reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark).

There is always an undeniable charm to all of Jane Austen's work. The edgy irony and satire surrounding the 1800s English nobility is wonderfully funny and intelligent. Love & Friendship definitely aims at that. Sadly, for me, it never reached the potential the source material is representative of even though there is still lots of space for some fun to be had and for appreciation, despite the lack of genuine laughter and enjoyment throughout the film.

There is much to be praised about the filmmaking here. There are stylistic choices made that are very interesting and promise a film that isn't what the final product ends to be sadly. The aspect ratio choice is perfect, the way characters are introduced is genius and probably the funniest aspect of the film. The long takes used in the film are ingeniously staged and there is some subtle camera work that makes them really dynamic. Long conversations are often carried through in one single take, but it never feels like that and the staging of actors versus camera complements the image beautifully, giving the scenes a real flow to them that would have lacked with a more stable image.

Basically there is not much in the craft of this film that can be criticized. The costumes and the set design are absolutely stunning, the rich colors in the dresses, the fancy noble houses, and the 1800s climate is all replicated with remarkable mastery. This is definitely a beautiful film to look at on a solely visual perspective and the richness of that combined with a slew of talented actors going on about the non sense of nobility in the 1800s was enough for me to be mildly entertained.

Unfortunately, this film is not nearly as sardonic enough for it to be believable as a satire. Comparing it to something like The Importance of Being Ernest this one for me pales in comparison. It has a similarly voluntarily convoluted plot and has what ultimately are pathetic, but likable, characters. What this film unfortunately doesn't do is go the full way into the comedic aspects of the situation. The actors all play it a little to straight, they don't have that underlying irony about it all. Lady Susan, the lead character, is thoroughly unlikable, but worst of all, unsympathetic. You don't understand where she is coming from and from that derives an aura of self importance about the film that really doesn't belong to it. There is never a balance between the seriousness of the situation and the comedic aspect of it.

Having said that, there are many little laughs in the film that still managed to keep it enjoyable even though overall, especially considering the critical reception the film got, I was excepting much, much more wit and humor than what I got.

James' Review: 6/10

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