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Set in the 1790s, Love and Friendship centers on beautiful widow Lady Susan Vernon, who has come to the estate of her in-laws to wait out colorful rumors about her dalliances circulating through polite society. Whilst there, she decides to secure a husband for herself and her rather reluctant debutante daughter, Frederica.
Whether you'll enjoy it depends entirely on your love and familiarity with the Jane Austin novels and films.
I have read just about every Jane Austin novel and have seen many different versions of movies based on her books. As a guy, this makes me very unusual to say the least. But even women, who are usually the most die-hard fans of this great writer, only make up a small percentage of the population. Because of this, I feel safe in saying that a new film parody of Austin, Love & Friendship, is likely only to be seen by folks who love and appreciate her stories. For them, this film is a must-see. For everyone else...not so much. Now this is not because there's anything wrong with this new movie...on the contrary, it's very well made and was produced, surprisingly enough, by Amazon Films (yes, from amazon.com)! Quite surprising...especially for a lush period piece. But the average person simply won't understand or appreciate the very droll and dry humor. And, even if you are a fan, you really have to be into the language and pay close attention for all the nuances. Again...not a complaint...more an observation which will let you decide whether the film will be right for you.
This film, as in other Austin films, is set in the Regency period in Britain (the very early 19th century). However, the filmmakers actually chose to make the film in Ireland...and it's a nice substitute. When the film begins, Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale) is abruptly leaving the Manwaring estate. You have no idea why but soon learn that Lady Susan is a rather poor woman and generally visits with friends and family in order to sponge off them. She also feels no particular obligation to pay her mounting debts...after all, she is Lady Susan! Her sister-in-law, Catherine Vernon (Emma Greenwell) isn't completely thrilled with the visit to her home, as Lady Susan has the reputation as a very beguiling yet vicious woman...all done with a smile. Catherine is also soon alarmed because her nice but slightly dim brother, Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) is captivated by Lady Susan and would love to marry her. Oddly, despite Lady Susan being a horrible and conniving woman, when her daughter, Frederica (Morfydd Clark) joins them at their estate, she is nothing like her mother...and the audience hopes and prays that dopey Reginald recognizes Frederica and Susan for who they truly are. However, Susan is determined to have Reginald for herself and instead foist the incredibly boring and stupid Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett) onto Frederica. Can this master manipulator be stopped or will she soon manage to make three other people completely miserable?
This film is quite funny but the humor is nothing like the long string of brain-dead and worthless parodies of films such as Disaster Movie and Date Movie. Instead of being broad and written for the average 10 year-old, Love & Friendship is often very subtle and is filled with wit that should appeal to Austin fans. But it's also the sort of well-crafted film that just has a limited appeal to broader audiences. It's a shame, as it's very well directed, sports a clever script and has lots of wonderful supporting actors such as Steven Fry and James Fleet (who is my favorite in the supporting cast). For fans of the author it's a must-see...others might just want to wait until this comes to Netflix or DVD.
For fans, I'd give this one a 10. For all others, perhaps a 5 or 6.
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