Love & Friendship

Kate Beckinsale shines in Whit Stillman's delightful Jane Austen adaptation

Film Review by Josh Slater-Williams | 26 Feb 2016
Film title: Love & Friendship
Director: Whit Stillman
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Chloë Sevigny, Xavier Samuel, Emma Greenwell, Justin Edwards, Tom Bennett, Morfydd Clark, Jemma Redgrave, James Fleet, Jenn Murray, Stephen Fry
Release date: 27 May
Certificate: U

In a perfect marriage of artists, Love & Friendship sees Jane Austen's early novella Lady Susan adapted by writer-director Whit Stillman. The result is his most commercially accessible work to date, but fans will be pleased to hear he's not lost any of the preciseness or punch of his previously divisive, ironic-romantic comedies (Metropolitan, BarcelonaDamsels in Distress).

Alongside a uniformly strong international ensemble, Stillman reunites Beckinsale and Sevigny, his leading ladies from 1998's The Last Days of Disco. The former astonishes, delivering her best performance since that film as a Machiavellian matchmaker. Both subtly and unsubtly wreaking havoc among various groups across 1790s England, her character is blissfully unaware of her self-absorption and its ludicrousness (“facts are horrid things”).

Speaking of the blissfully unaware, while the more pointed social satire delights, a consistent scene-stealer is Tom Bennett as a doltish suitor, who's slow catching on to basically everything. He provides some of the most riotous scenes of any recent film. Indeed, with its immaculate balancing of wit both broad and droll, this is one of the funniest comedies of manners since the heyday of Ernst Lubitsch.

Love & Friendship was the surprise film screening at this year's Glasgow Film Festival, and will be released by Curzon Artificial Eye in May

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