“Love & Friendship” Review: Jane Austen Makes ‘Em Laugh

Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Considering that other Jane Austen books/movies have awesome alliterations like Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility, it’s almost a shame that this one is called Love & Friendship. However, Love & Friendship is a very different type of Jane Austen adaptation.

The first 10-15 minutes of the film are a little confusing. Like any classic work, it takes a little while to acclimate to the text and story, especially with so many characters being introduced at once. The movie is distributed by Amazon Studios, so it will eventually become available on Amazon Prime. In terms of style and substance, Love & Friendship is absolutely perfect for this format. However, one can only hope that people don’t get turned off by feeling a little confused at the beginning, because the film is absolutely hysterical.

Adapted from Jane Austen’s epistolary novel (i.e. a novel written through a series of documents – but the movie does a great job of creating a fully formed narrative), Love & Friendship follows Lady Susan (played magnificently by Kate Beckinsale), a widow who visits her various in-laws while searching for a new husband. Comic adventures ensue.

What differentiates this film from other classic works and romantic-comedies is that the leading lady does not take a passive role. Lady Susan is selfish, manipulative and absolutely lovable. She takes an active role throughout the movie, getting what she wants while concealing her true intentions from those around her. She is the perfect anti-heroine, and one that is so desperately needed.

After a few moments of trepidation for those who walked into the film cold, the movie starts to make some sense. And just as things become clear, the film becomes really funny. Not just laughing-too-loudly-at-slightly-ironic-moments-to-impress-those-around-you, but truly funny. There is such a magnificent sense of timing throughout, and combined with clearly defined characters and stunning cinematography, Love & Friendship is probably the safest bet in theatres right now.

Check that, Love & Friendship is also probably the perfect date movie. It has a cute, distinct style that isn’t too aggressive, and a relatively neutral tone to make sure the film isn’t too overwhelming or unappealing. It deals with love, but also manipulation, so couples can walk out feeling romantic, but not in an uncomfortable way. It’s short, rated PG and really good.

The movie is also essentially the perfect play adaptation. Love & Friendship is based off of a novella rather than a play, but the point stands because whole movie is essentially just dialogue. The film gets straight to the point, not falling into any traps of excessive style or dramatization, but it still uses enough technique throughout to make sure it stills feels worthwhile on screen.

The movie’s tendency towards simplicity is occasionally detrimental however, as the scope can feel small towards the end, and sometimes the editing is a bit too abrupt. That said, Love & Friendship is fully formed and a fantastic film. That’s enough with all of the alliterations, but the movie is an unassuming masterpiece and deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

 

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