Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Movie Review #436: "Love & Friendship" (2016)

Movie"Love & Friendship"
Director: Whit Stillman
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes
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A widow named Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) heads to Churchill, the estate of her brother-in-law Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards). Once there, she hopes to secure her financial future for herself and her daughter as she attempts to manipulate and seduce a couple of wealthy bachelors into marrying them.

Directed by Whit Stillman, "Love & Friendship" is adapted from a Jane Austen novella entitled "Lady Susan." The film stars Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon, who is a widow and has a reputation for being a flirt. "Flirt" seem to be the Victorian English way of saying 'slut' or 'homewrecker,' but we digress. As these accusations stir, Lady Susan, now low on money, heads to Churchill, the estate of her deceased husband's brother, Charles Vernon, played by Justin Edwards. There, it is her hope that she shall manipulate and seduce his wife's brother Reginald DeCourcy, played by Xavier Samuel, into marriage, securing her future indefinitely while all these rumors blow over. She also has a plan to marry her daughter Frederica, played by Morfydd Clark, off to Sir James Martin, played by Tom Bennett, who is a bit of an imbecile, but is also quite wealthy and wants to make her life comfortable. Martin is the type of person who marvels at the existence of peas and takes an hour to tell a simple story. Lady Susan also frequents the home of her exiled American friend Alicia Johnson, played by Chloë Sevigny, to gossip about her exploits. Alicia's husband, played by Stephen Fry, threatens to send Alicia back to Connecticut if she continues her friendship with the scandalous Lady Susan.

Being a Jane Austen adaptation, this is obviously a period piece. In turn, this means lavish costumes, beautiful European estates, and of course, old timey Victorian English. Much like "Pride and Prejudice," this is a story about women trying to secure a husband, though it is not at all a romance. It is meant to be a comedy, and there are a couple of moments of great humor. Unless you are well versed in Victorian era language and traditions, however, some of the humor may not translate and we don't always fully comprehend the satire. The acting in the movie is good. Kate Beckinsale plays the cunning Lady Susan Vernon with a pompous precision, cunning and sharp. Beckinsale also has a couple of moments where the wit of her dialogue shines in her delivery. We particularly liked Tom Bennett's performance as the simple-minded Sir James Martin. His buffoonery and his ability to make idiotic statements with such confidence made us laugh far more than anything else in the film. The sets, costumes, and lush European landscapes are stars themselves as they shine with an accuracy and gorgeousness reserved for only these types of movies.

This is billed as a comedy, and maybe it's wrong of us, but we rarely if ever found ourselves rising above a (sometimes consistent) chuckle. "Love & Friendship" is rather short at just 92 minutes, but it certainly feels a bit longer. We never really felt completely engaged with what was going on, and maybe it's because we're not its intended audience, but it all feels a bit stodgy to us. A movie like this definitely has a particular viewing public in mind, people who enjoy watching films and shows about the English aristocracy, fans of ye olde English, and lovers of Jane Austen's work, none of which we are. It is technically well constructed, but just didn't fully appeal to us. 

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.4/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 99%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
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One year ago, we were watching: "Virunga"

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