Love and Friendship

Love and Friendship ticketstubI believe this movie is based on a recently discovered and unfinished Jane Austen novella. It follows Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) as she moves in with her in-laws after the death of her husband. That's really just the setting, though, the movie itself is mostly about Lady Susan's sociopathic manipulations of everyone around her as she works to secure her own future by hooking her daughter and hopefully herself up with a rich husband. There's probably a lot of sub-text I missed, but on the surface, it's a look at what these ladies have gone through and will go through in a world where they have no professional options, where all they can do is get married in order to ensure food and shelter and, in the case of these ladies, income so they can maintain their lifestyle.

I found Lady Susan to be a very unlikable character. It's difficult to be sympathetic toward a character who is herself, incapable of feeling empathy for anyone else. She's a compulsive liar who manipulates everyone and will frequently throw her own daughter under the bus if it means she can climb one more rung on her own personal achievement ladder. Those around her seem at least remotely aware of Lady Susan's manipulations, but because this is upper crust England and everyone must be proper, she is rarely called out on anything. Awkward encounters aside, the movie is frequently and unexpectedly funny. It managed to get several out loud chuckles from me. Once you get into the language and story, you start to pick up on the funny moments quite easily. Something curious, though, whenever characters are moving about an estate, indoors or out, or walking around the streets of London, there is usually at least one "common" person doing something in the background. It might be lighting candles or tending some equipment or fixing the bricks in the pavement, but there's always something going on in these scenes and I wasn't sure if it was intended to make the area feel "working" or if there's a message about the petty manipulations of this highborn folks while the service class silently keeps their world functioning. The acting was generally good and often quite funny. I mostly followed the story, but occasionally lost track of things amongst all the big words being used. I don't think it felt as polished as the more well-known Austen works, but maybe after it's around for a while we'll feel more comfortable with it.