A new film by one of the present day’s most notable independent directors the ironic aesthete Whit Stillman, Love and Friendship is based on “Lady Susan”—an early novella by Jane Austen.
Set in the 1790s, an attractive young widow Lady Susan Vernon, arrives at her former husband’s estate shortly after his death. Aiming to alleviate rumors of her multiple love affairs, and improve her finances, she sets out on a hunt for a new husband for herself and her daughter. Along with beauty and natural charm, Lady Susan takes full advantage of her sardonic mind and incredible seductive skills.
In his previous movies, the New York based Harvard University graduate Stillman often referred to classic literature. By drawing parallels between our contemporaries and the characters of Jane Austen or Samuel Johnson, he relocated the conflicts of the period—including class and gender struggles—to the context of American university campuses, European cities, or New York flats rented by kids from upper-class families. Over the years, his anachronistic comedies of manners—Metropolitan (1990), Barcelona (1994), The Last Days of Disco (1998) and the more recent Damsels in Distress (2011)—have become cult features of independent film. A meticulous adaptation of the novel, including historic sets and costumes, Love and Friendship nevertheless provides the expected level of Stillman’s signature sarcasm aimed at our times.
Love and Friendship. Dir. Whit Stillman, 92 minutes, France, The Netherlands, Ireland, USA, 2016.