Love & Friendship
Starring Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel, Morfydd Clark, Emma Greenwell, Chloë Sevigny
Kate Beckinsale isn’t known as an actress associated with great parts. Whether her own fault in the projects she chooses, never has she been known for her talents as much as her beauty and agility. In Whit Stillman’s latest, he reunites his Last Days of Disco co-stars Beckinsale, Sevigny and other cast members of the 1998 film that put the starlet on the map. Jane Austen continues to be one of the most popular authors adapted to film, this taken from a posthumously published work. You can’t help but notice the timing of Love & Friendship, not to mention it’s similar snap and wit compared to the recently departed Downton Abby.
Lady Susan Vernon (Beckinsale) is a scandalous woman according to the humble families outside of London. Lady Susan is recently widowed and left to care for her teenage daughter Frederica (Clark) with no money or place of their own. Lady Susan has announced her arrival to her brothers’ home in at ChurchHill, where she will meet his kind and fair younger wife Catherine (Greenwell). It’s Catherine’s even younger, strapping brother Reginald DeCourcy (Samuel) that Lady Susan takes up an interest, but she can’t quite decide if she wants him for herself or daughter. Lady Susan plots everything around her, like pawns, she is sneaky, conniving and will stop at nothing to provide the best outcome for herself and maybe her daughter if it’s convenient.
Beckinsale is perfectly cast as this woman who is both alluring in her beauty and vile in her plotting.
“An ornament to society,” she is called, she is the Susan Lucci of the late 1700’s. Beckinsale is once again given a role to show off a different side of her skillset. Her toned body which has made her so popular in the Underworld franchise, hidden away. “America is a nation of ingrates,” she says in just one scene of many insults she hurls at anyone and everyone, behind their backs of course. Stillman’s script focuses mostly on Lady Susan, despite her being the villain of the story. She doesn’t quite fall into the love to hate category of Meryl Streep awfulness in Devil Wears Prada, because with Susan she always explains her motives. Beckinsale, 42, still doesn’t look a day over 30 and is perfectly cast as this woman who is both alluring in her beauty and vile in her plotting. It’s her best role since playing Ava Gardner in The Aviator.
Despite the film’s snarky, yet clever character introductions (each time a new face appears on screen we get their name and a goofy takeaway of the actor staring at the camera like a game show) and its snappy dialogue, it still drags its feet. “Facts are horrid things,” one of Susan’s most quotable lines, when she finally gets caught in her misdoings. It’s actually Australian actor Xavier Samuel (Adore, The Twilight Saga) whom everyone seems to revolve around. The young Aussie is also given a rare meaty role rather than just being cast for his physique in the background. Love & Friendship is more gimmick Jane Austin than anything. It’s not the beautiful and sweeping type film Joe Wright gave us when he updated Pride & Prejudice in 2005.
A career highlight for Beckinsale.