Love & Friendship: Film Review

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Love & Friendship is one of those movies that is simply delightful at the time, but leaves no impact or lasting impression, making a review a very difficult task. The period comedy is a pleasant watch with plenty of laughs and a cracking performance from Kate Beckinsale, who I never really rated as an actress until now.

She plays the manipulative Lady Susan Vernon in this adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan. Susan has no money following the death of her husband (which she doesn’t seem to be too bothered about) and spends her time living with relatives who will take her in. She seeks refuge with her in-laws (Emma Greenwell and Justin Edwards) to escape rumours about her dalliance with married man Lord Manwaring. Susan’s daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) has run away from school and Susan is determined to find them both husbands – she wants Frederica to be wed to the oh-so simple James Martin (Tom Bennett) while she seduces the much-younger Reginald (Xavier Samuel).

Susan is a schemer but always pleasant and effusive on the outside. She seems to have the upper hand in every situation, and nothing fazes her – even when things don’t go according to plan, she seems to have a way of styling it out to make it work for her. You feel sorry for those around her and sometimes feel they must be dim to not notice her conniving ways. She is incredibly selfish, and thinks a lot of herself, which she will openly discuss in her posh, clipped way. She is quick-witted with razor-sharp insults, so you have to be really paying attention to catch all of her barbs.

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This is honestly the best performance I ever seen from Beckinsale. She is wonderfully catty and mean, but always so charming on the surface. She carries a lot of dialogue on her shoulders with a very specific delivery, so it is impressive. I also loved Greenwell as the put-upon in-law, Samuel for his good looks and Bennett for providing the best laugh-out-loud moments. He is so funny and his character is supposed to be stupid, and he does this in a way that’s not too caricature-like. The most notable weak spot was Chloe Sevigny as Susan’s American confidante. Her accent felt out of place. There are many characters here and it’s quite hard to get your head around initially – but title cards introducing everybody at the start helps.

This is a very talky piece that requires a lot of attention. Once you’ve got the hang of Susan’s pattern of speech, it’s pretty easy to follow and the plot unfolds in a way I didn’t quite expect. I’ve never been a huge fan of period pieces but this turns them on their head and is refreshingly hilarious. The movie itself doesn’t stand out in my mind, but Beckinsale’s performance does.

In cinemas from today 

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