Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"Love and Friendship," the Movie

If you love Jane Austen’s work, as you know I do, I recommend you see the new movie “Love and Friendship.” It is based on Austen’s early, unfinished book, “Lady Susan.” (This is a little confusing, because Austen’s first published juvenilia was a novella titled “Love and Freindship,” and yes, the misspelling was in the original title.) I have read the book several times (although fewer times than Austen's complete novels; it is Austen, so I love it, but it is clearly not at the level of her six finished novels), and just saw the film and liked it very much. It (the book and the film) is a bit darker (not too dark though) than most of her work, and than the other movies based on her work. Both still have the wit, the comedy, the razor-sharp observations of Austen’s work. What is different is that the main character, Lady Susan Vernon, is truly unscrupulous and manipulative, more than most of Austen’s characters in her other novels, especially women characters (there are a few deceiving rakes in the other novels, but even they are usually repentant at some point, and/or have some redeeming qualities). But even so, we see that as a female on her own, a widow with few financial resources, Lady Susan has to use whatever she can to survive (one of Austen's messages in some of her other novels, but usually in less blatant form). She has her own agency, and is able to achieve her goals (eventually) of marrying off her daughter and then getting married herself, flirting and having affairs with others, always playing one man off against another. The acting is excellent, with Kate Beckinsale in the part of Lady Susan, and other wonderful actors, some recognizable (Stephen Frye, Jemma Redgrave), some not. As a bonus, the beautiful costumes and the settings of the impressive country houses are splendid.
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