"It’s hilarious, it’s confusing and just so bloody British – it’s fabulous!"
Love & Friendship immediately captures the Austen fan in all of us, with charmingly dislikable characters and flamboyant dress which is guaranteed to make every woman want a big poofy dress covered in lace. When one hears Jane Austen, it can certainly go either way; an instant glowing response can arise or a standard sigh and an eye roll.
Yet, even if it is the latter, this parody of Austen’s unfinished novella Lady Susan is sure to entertain the most unlikely fan. That being said, a little background of her oh so proper, or not so much here world of family and romance would certainly enhance the overall experience.
In a prompt, transparent manner we are introduced to our key characters and when the infamous Stephen Fry’s face appears (and so it should), any doubts that were lingering are instantly whisked away. Enter Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale), a most prim and proper; yet deviously scheming widow who seems to think imposing on relatives and playing cupid with her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) will solve her every problem - naturally.
Despite focusing so heavily on her daughters to be fortune, this clever lady still has a morsel of time to find herself a new husband in amongst all her love games and general meddling in other people’s business. Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) who’s husband thinks Lady Susan is a bad influence doesn’t waste any time in helping her friend sneak around with married men and tease the male population itself. The Bloodline star brings much charisma to her Alicia as more than a few hilarious scenes emerge as she aids Susan in her devilish ways.
From the get go, this sophisticated production captures an ideal equilibrium of Austen’s style and dark, dry humour. This is a simple story nonetheless, albeit a tale that doesn’t need twists and turns as its effortless storytelling allows nothing other than pure entrainment to sweep you off your feet. The quick, brash exchanges here are hard to keep up with. If you are taken in by the bright dresses or cleavage then you will undoubtedly miss a word or two and will result in playing catch up for a second or two whilst you get back on track. At time Beckinsales’ Lady Susan, takes quick witted to the next level and it’s a mystery how she can maintain her breath as she rapidly spurts her dialogue with utter grace. Tom Bennett deserves a mention, as the bumbling, idiot that is Sir James Martin, cringey performance screams for more screen time.
One thing you should do this Bank Holiday is take a brisk stroll down a lane full of snobs and disobedient brats. Love & Friendship will befuddle you but most importantly make you giggle uncontrollably at the various on point performances the entire cast seamlessly provide us with. Don’t let the period dress or indeed Austen’s name put you off – this a refreshing ounce of what us humans can truly be like.