Love & Friendship
The Lady Susan Vernon is the kind of woman whose reputation precedes her.
And not in a good way.
You see, Lady Susan has a way of enchanting men … and enraging women. She's not known as "the most accomplished flirt" in 18th-century England for nothing, after all.
After the death of her husband (whom, rumor suggests, she treated shockingly shabbily), she's wormed her way into the home of the Lord and Lady Manwaring … and it's soon being whispered that she's having an affair with the Lord. Now, Lady Lucy Manwaring's no fool, and she soon tosses the homewrecker out.
So what's a homeless noblewoman long on manipulative, effervescent charm and woefully short on morals to do? Why, beg to stay at the estate of her brother-in-law, Charles Vernon, of course—a place positively pulsating with new relational potential for someone with Lady Susan's, ahem, particular set of skills.
Indeed, once she's comfortably ensconced there, you practically need a flowchart to track the connecting lines of romantic intrigue. Ultimately, if Lady Susan can't have Lord Manwaring, she tells her confidant and American friend, Alicia Johnson, then perhaps she should set her sights on young Reginald DeCourcy, the brother of Charles Vernon's wife, Catherine.
The Vernons are aghast at the very thought!
But when Lady Susan's estranged late-teen daughter, Frederica, unexpectedly shows up, well, suddenly there's a bit of a competition for Reginald's affections. Susan's determined to see her young, pretty daughter—who's as earnest, innocent and delightful as her mother is devious and sly—married off to "vastly rich, but rather simple" Sir James Martin.
Of course, Frederica's just not that interested in a bumbling, smiling fool who thinks there are 12 Commandments instead of 10 and who's never heard of peas. ("Tiny green balls!" he exclaims with pre-Pythonian glee.)
So let's just say that as Lady Susan ratchets up her matrimonial machinations, so the Vernons strive to make sure young Reginald makes the right choice when it comes to a marriage partner.
We definitely get the message here that who you marry … matters. And while she acts as a willing co-conspirator in Lady Susan's myriad plots, Alicia Johnson also seems to be trying to push things in better directions at times. [Spoiler Warning] Thus, barring any sort of grand moral statement, the story at least thwarts Lady Susan's narcissistic ambitions.
As mentioned, Sir James mistakenly thinks there are 12 Commandments. Lady Susan tries to manipulate her daughter into abiding by her dictates by emphasizing the biblical injunction to obey and honor one's parents (counsel that a young curate at a local parish reinforces without knowing of Lady Susan's selfish misappropriation). The churchman also speaks of the importance of cultivating a good moral will.
It's implied that Lady Susan has had affairs with more than one man. And at the end of the movie, she announces she's pregnant. She says it's by her new husband, but it's quite clear that her ongoing dalliance with Lord Manwaring is actually the cause. Then the lascivious lord even moves in with her and her new husband after his own wife kicks him to the curb. That means, naturally, that Lady Susan will go on happily maintaining her affair with Manwaring.
Miss Johnson favors dresses with plunging, cleavage-baring necklines.
None, really, other than Lady Susan's perverse hope that an older man's next round of gout will kill him.
Crude or Profane Language
No foul interjections. Name-calling includes "blockhead."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Characters drink wine at meals. A scene occurs in a tavern.
Other Negative Elements
The entire story twists and turns on Lady Susan's considerable skill at manipulating virtually any person and any situation into delivering the outcome she desires—something she's remarkably adept at, even when her "victims" are warily watching and waiting for her to do exactly that.
Love & Friendship is based on Jane Austen's early novella, Lady Susan, which wasn't published until nearly a century after it was written. And based on the way it's portrayed onscreen, it is decidedly Austen-lite. Which is to say Love & Friendship is long on witty English repartee but considerably shorter on deep emotional resonance of the kind that's made the much-loved British author's better-known novels (and, of course, their corresponding cornucopia of movie adaptations) the classics that they are.
What we're left with is a rollicking, at times belly-laugh-inducing trifle of a story that hints at some significant issues—a woman's promiscuity, her troubled relationship with her daughter and extended family—without ever really dealing seriously with them.
Call it an 18th-century romcom, if you will, a silly, sometimes winkingly salacious warm-up for the likes of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Kate Beckinsale as Lady Susan Vernon; Morfydd Clark as Frederica Vernon; Chloë Sevigny as Alicia Johnson; Stephen Fry as Mr. Johnson; Xavier Samuel as Reginald DeCourcy; Emma Greenwell as Catherine Vernon; Justin Edwards as Charles Vernon; Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin; Jemma Redgrave as Lady DeCourcy; James Fleet as Sir Reginald DeCourcy; Jenn Murray as Lady Lucy Manwaring; Lochlann O'Mearáin as Lord Manwaring
Whit Stillman ( )
May 13, 2016
September 6, 2016