by Alan Yudman
I think I’ve seen more photos of Kate Beckinsale than movies in which she’s appeared. She is one of the most beautiful people on the planet, and the films I’ve known her for feature vampires, and really not much else. Maybe I should rethink and take another look at her filmography.
In LOVE & FRIENDSHIP, she opened my eyes to the range of her talent. This is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Lady Susan”. I wasn’t familiar with it, so a little Wikipedia research revealed it is an epistolary novel (compiled from a series of letters). And it was published almost 80 years after it was written. It follows Lady Susan Vernon as she schemes and seduces her way through men and women in an effort to find husbands for herself and her daughter. Lady Susan plays brother against sister, husbands against wives and even though people come to realize what a, uh, bitch she is they seem powerless to stop her from achieving her goals.
Beckinsale is marvelous. Her beauty combine with talent to bring Lady Susan to life. She’s alluring and evil. You want to ravage her and then smack her. Sometimes both at the same time. Whit Stillman’s (and Austen’s) words roll out of her mouth with just the right amount of seduction and bravado. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP reunites the trio of Beckinsale, Stillman and Chloe Sevigny. And it is all wonderful and absolutely hysterical. The movie is about 90 minutes and I think I laughed from shortly after the beginning to the end. Tom Bennett also stands out as the terminally inappropriate and therefore hysterical Sir James Martin.
These costume dramas (or in this case comedy) are not really my thing. But I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I think anyone who likes a well written and directed comedy will appreciate LOVE & FRIENDSHIP.