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Love & Friendship (2016)

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Whit Stillman adapts Jane Austen’s lesser known work, the novella called Lady Susan, and creates a wonderfully coy portrait of a glamorous widow who runs rings around everybody while fomenting rumours, stories and great wodges of gossip and fear everywhere she goes as she tries to find a new husband for herself and to marry off her teenaged daughter. Kate Beckinsale does wonders in this slim tale and her American confidante is Chloe Sevigny, reunited many years after they shot The Last Days of Disco for this NYC auteur. Things lighten up tremendously when daughter Morfydd Clark’s silly suitor Tom Bennett turns up and drives everyone to the edge of sanity with his cluelessness and he’s well played in this typical tale of country house catch chase. The epistolary nature of the source material means that Stillman needed to be creative with the dialogue and aside from the confusing number of people introduced (with helpful sub-titles) there is a thin-ness and repetitiveness to the comedy of manners that is amplified in the credits sequence, where in Hollywood comedy fashion, not out-takes but lines of dialogue are exchanged which would have aided the material immensely: quite why they weren’t in the film’s edit I have no idea. It needed them. It also feels like it was shot on too small a budget and looks a little ropy. Still, Beckinsale is tremendous.

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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