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Love and Friendship (2016) – Austen’s Novella ‘Lady Susan’ is Adapted


When news broke that there was to be a new Jane Austen adaptation, containing my fangirl excitement wasn’t a possibility. This particular adaptation imagines how Austen’s little-known novella, Lady Susan, should be told on a larger stage.


Scandal is what Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) does best. She leaves a string of broken hearts, and colors outside the lines of propriety. Or so the gossip says. But the facts remain Lady Susan does leave her prior residence in the wake of scandal. Through it all is her good friend and confident Alicia (Chloë Sevigny), a woman who married for money, of course; and her reluctant, shy daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark).

After placing her daughter in a boarding school, Lady Susan relocates to her brother’s estate for a period of time. While living among their society she begins the chase anew with the much younger, Reginald De Courcy (Xavier Samuel). Complications beyond Lady Susan’s schemes arise when her daughter arrives, bringing with her a precipitously rebellious heart.

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After months of excitement and waiting, I finally saw this (at the time a month or better past its home entertainment release). It’s with regret that I have to report, Love and Friendship isn’t up to the task of exceptional Austen adaptations. Helmed by Wit Stillman, the style of this isn’t quite what I expected which completely threw me. As a Georgian film, this steps away from Austen’s usual comfort zone of Regency era, which I do love. It puts an entirely new spin on an Austen film with a new sense of freedom (and playful fun). Sadly, this freedom is all well and good for many reasons, but the style in which this is shot is not one of them.

Something about the filming feels “off” and quite simply, awkward. What it is I cannot place my finger on, but it’s there. As I sat down to write this review after weeks of pondering the story, I found I couldn’t remember a great deal about it. This gave me pause. To me, this says this isn’t a terribly memorable (for me) story, and that made me sad. This inspired a bit of “refresher” Google searching (because Google knows everything) and I was quickly reminded of who everyone was if not entirely the conclusions of each story.

(Never fear, I do remember enough, and feel confident enough to push ahead with this review.)


The story is said to be an epistolary one which is part of the reason the film undertakes these stylings. As is the usual Austen style, the characters have flair and personality like none other. This leads me to the actors. Everyone is top of the line. From the supporting cast brimming with new talent to Chloë Sevigny, everyone puts their best foot forward. Although none surpass Kate Beckinsale, who is wickedly good in her role as the (mostly) unlikable, Lady Susan. No stranger to period pieces, Beckinsale was able to tap into some of her Emma Woodhouse (from A&E’s Emma) characteristics with this role. What works so well is that she, somehow, makes us like her. Just a little bit.

If you’re a fan of zany period drama that isn’t afraid to poke fun at society or its players, then Love & Friendship is a darn good time. It’s got the usual “wicked” sense of humor we’re so accustomed to from Austen adaptations, but the cast goes a long way in endearing this. 
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Rissi
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12 comments:

  1. I didn't really enjoy this one, and it makes me sad to say that, as a big fan of Jane Austen. (I didn't like the novella either though, because the characters were so unlikable.) I can't really remember why, other than the fact that it didn't feel like an Austen adaptation, and apparently it was forgettable. :)

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    1. I'm with you. I liked it well enough, but by and large, I find it unforgettable. I may have a little different opinion when I watch it again just because I now know what to expect, but I won't hold my breath. :D

      Glad you came by to share! :)

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  2. I love the film adaptions of Jane Austen's I've seen (Sense and Sensibility, P&P, Emma, etc.), so it's disappointing that this one didn't turn out as well. Thanks for the review!

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    1. It just wasn't my cup of tea in comparison to Austen's usual stories. That said, I liked this one well enough, and the cast is superb! If it were filmed differently, I may have come away with a different opinion. Have you seen this one, Korin?

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    2. I understand, and there's so many good versions of Jane Austen's works out nowadays, it sometimes becomes hard to watch newer ones when compared to the good, classic ones. No, haven't seen it yet. I didn't know it was coming out until I saw your review- your blog keeps me up-to-date on the latest movies. :)

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    3. Cool. I do hope you enjoy Love & Friendship if you see it. (It's on Amazon to rent/buy.) Let me know if you do see it!

      What's your favorite Austen? :)

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    4. All right, I will. :) And sorry about not answering your comment on here (and on my blog) for awhile- I usually don't get on the computer too often.
      My favorite Austen is definitely "Pride and Prejudice" ( and movie version, the 1990's one), although "Emma" is probably next on the list (the BBC version with Romola Garai). What about you?

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    5. I look forward to reading your thoughts.

      Pride and Prejudice is wonderful. I love the story, and do confess, the big screen film (2005, was it!?) has quickly edged itself up as my favorite. Emma too is stunning! I love how different it is from Pride and Prejudice.

      My favorite? Well, aside from Pride & Prejudice, I'd say I adore the ITV mini series of Sense & Sensibility. But I also like the 90s version of Mansfield Park (progressive modernism and all). *sigh* It's a struggle to pick, isn't it!? :)

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  3. I liked it, but didn't love it personally. It definitely had several fun and sweet moments though, so that pushed it above hate for me. I'm like you though, I was disappointed with it. (It's Jane Austen! I want to like every adaptation of hers! :) I remember someone telling me that a second viewing might make a different in my opinion as I'd know what to expect that time and be able to notice more details. This particular person said it worked for her, she liked it much better the second time. I haven't tried this theory yet though... :)

    I think a big reason for my dislike was just how much I didn't like Lady Susan herself. And since she's the main focus of the story, well... I WILL say that I thought Kate Beckinsale did a fantastic job playing her role though!

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    1. I have a feeling your friend's theory *might* apply to me, Kara. I was just so surprised by, not so much the era (because I believe I knew that going in), but the FILMING style. It took a lot of adjusting which then put me "off" the story.

      ...we might should test her theory. Someday. ;)

      Kate does a fantastic job with the role! She plays that type of character very well indeed.

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  4. Agreed -- off and awkward. The actors did good, the characters were interesting, and individual lines were witty and Austen-y, but something about the way it was written and filmed didn't work at all! I think it's a pretty straightforward case though -- we were told everything instead of being shown everything, and it was consequentially boring and forgettable. :/ Nice review!

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    1. The filming is my BIG complaint. I just couldn't get past it. Made me so sad to describe this one as "forgettable," but well, sadly, I agree. It is. I think a second viewing *might* give me a new perspective, but I don't think it'll be a drastic change.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, Sarah - and for reading! :)

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