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Love & Friendship (DVD)

Ya'll know I love a good Jane Austen adaptation.  So when I spotted a trailer for a new, previously unadapted novella by Austen, you know I had to see it.  Love & Friendship is the film adaptation of the novella Lady Susan written by Jane Austen around 1794; however, it was not published for nearly seven decades.  Kate Beckinsale, perhaps the best known actor in the film (at least to American audiences), plays Lady Susan Vernon.

Love & Friendship has a fast-paced plot and quick, smart dialogue.  At times because everything and everyone, it seems, is moving so quickly it can be hard to follow just what machinations are going on or how events are transpiring.  And the characters' connections serve up some confusion right off the top of the movie, but more on that later.

Lady Susan Vernon is a conniving, manipulative widow whose social reputation is in tatters at the outset of the film due to a romantic liaison with the (married) master of Langhorne where Lady Susan and her daughter have been residing.  However, Lady Susan must abruptly decamp from that house while Frederica returns to boarding school.  Meanwhile, Lady Susan seeks refuge at Churchill, the country estate of the brother of her late husband.  Lady Susan's visit is unexpected due to the hastiness with which she left Langhorne.  As a result Lady Susan is received with reluctance (because she once tried to tank the brother-in-law's betrothal to his wife), trepidation (because her reputation as an untoward, though genteel, flirt precedes her), and bewilderment (she has never met nor shown interest in her young niece and nephew, the purported reason for her visit).

Soon Reginald De Courcy, the brother of Churchill's mistress, Catherine, arrives and promptly falls under the spell of Lady Susan despite his sister's warnings regarding Lady Susan's character.  In fact both the man's sister and his parents are downright horrified that the celebrated son of the family has become besotted with Lady Susan.  When Frederica arrives at the estate after running away from her boarding school (and to which she is forbidden to return), it's clear there's tension between mother and daughter.  The fraught relationship between Lady Susan and Frederica is largely due to Lady Susan's insistence at attempting to strong arm Frederica into an unwanted marriage to the daft and silly Sir James Martin.

And events develop from there.  As stated this is a fast paced film.  And there is also suspense as the viewer hopes that ultimately Reginald will come to his senses regarding his ill-advised attachment to Lady Susan.  Will the man succumb to the wily widow's manipulations before he realizes what she is or will he escape?  One would hate to see a benevolent chap like Reginald with (mostly) good sense (in matters unrelated to Lady Susan) be chained to Lady Susan, a woman of questionable character, for the rest of his life.

Some rants I had

God.  These people are nearly incestuous.  And it's confusing to ascertain how everyone relates and is connected by blood, marriage, and/or acquaintance.  You need a family tree chart to keep everything straight.

So.  Let's discuss Sir James Martin's introduction at Churchill.  Is the man drunk?  Is he touched in the head? Is he an idiot?  Only time will tell that the man is indeed a harmless idiot.  One can see why Frederica, a teenager of good character, does not want to be saddled for life with this silly, older gentleman.

When it's revealed that Lady Susan has managed to secure a (secret) engagement to Reginald, one wonders about his intelligence too.  One also wonders why Lady Susan is insistent on drawing out this engagement rather than hurrying him down the aisle, all the better to secure her own future.

Lady Susan's ability to always say just the thing to turn circumstances in her favor and pull Reginald back in just when it appears he may have finally seen sense is, in a word, (highly) infuriating.  Also Lady Susan is not above gaslighting Reginald in order to manipulate his feelings.

I do wonder just how much of how things ended up at the end of the film was actually part of Lady Susan's master plan from the beginning.  Did she snow everyone and actually get everything she really wanted despite appearances?  The woman is a master manipulator.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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